Creating CHM HTML Help Systems
Introduction to HTML Help CHM format
Nowadays, HTML Help CHM is the standard help format used in most modern Windows applications. An HTML Help system is completely stand-alone and can be distributed as a single file (for example, “My_Help_File.CHM”). Thus, a CHM file is practically a kind of the portable formats for technical documentation, which can be opened on all Windows PCs since Windows 98. Thus, any Windows user will be able to open such a file under Windows 98, ME, 2000, XP, and the latest Vista operating system as well.
A CHM HTML Help includes all the features to provide the end-user with easily navigated tutorial. Everybody of us is probably familiar with the HTML Help viewer, which has the Table of Contents, alphabetical Index, and the Search feature, located on the navigation pane to the left side from the help topic text.
What Tools You Can Use to Create CHM HTML Help Files
In fact, there are various tools in the marketplace from primitive applications to complex and expensive systems for writing technical documentation that support HTML Help as an output format. However, the common problem of that software is their non-intuitive and sluggish interface, complexity, and high price of about $999 per license or even more! Moreover, you will have to spend a lot of time on learning the tool before can create even a simple CHM file (learn more: http://www.helpsmith.com/htmlhelp.php) for your software product. Now you may be asking if there is another solution to make the process of creating CHM help an easier way. Fortunately, the answer is “yes”.
HelpSmith, has an alternative vision of creating .CHM Help. If you download and try HelpSmith available on the vendor’s web site, you will be surprised by its straightforward and easy-to-use user interface. There’s actually NO learning curve like in many other help authoring products making you spend hours to figure out how to add new help topic. Once you have installed HelpSmith on your computer, you can type “Hello, World”, click a button and here is it – your first help file in the HTML Help format. Then you can easily add new help topics, create hyperlinks, help windows, insert graphical files and everything the HTML Help system allows you to do; the process of working is actually as simple as working with Microsoft Office applications.
Creating CHM Files with HelpSmith
HelpSmith allows you to easily create CHM HTML Help files. Based upon the visual principle, HelpSmith provides you with a powerful text editor making the biggest part of working on a help system – writing and editing help topics – a pleasure to do. Use graphical images, insert full-featured tables, create hyperlinks, finally, and check spelling as you type just like in Microsoft Word. Also, you will be able to create the Table of Contents and the keyword Index for your CHM file just in several minutes. Among other important HelpSmith features are the abilities to create Web Help and printed documentation (learn more at http://www.helpsmith.com/printed_manual.php) from the same source help project.
About HTML Help (.CHM) Compiler
CHM is not an open file format. So how do third party products allow you to create it? Like other help authoring tools, HelpSmith uses the HHC.EXE help compiler to build CHM Files (for more information, visit http://www.helpsmith.com/htmlhelp.php) from your source project. The HHC.EXE HTML Help compiler is freely available with the Microsoft HTML Help Workshop package which can be downloaded from the product’s home page. Once HTML Help Workshop is installed, you should follow these simple steps to link HHC.EXE with HelpSmith:
- Choose “Options\Tools” from the menu.
- Select “General\Compilers” on the left sidebar.
- Specify the full path to the “HHC.EXE” file on your computer (for example, “c:\Program Files\HTML Help Workshop\HHC.exe”).
- Click the OK button to save the changed parameters.
The compiler is installed, the process of working with HHC.EXE is completely transparent to you, making it a breeze to create CHM HTML Help documentation.