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Help format switch from .hlp to .chm

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Posted by BiafraRepublic   (1 post)  [Biography] bio
Date Sat 30 May 2009 02:49 PM (UTC)
My main suggestion for MUSHClient (which is a very nice client and works great on Windows Vista and Windows 7 RC) is a switch from the old WinHlp32 format (.hlp) to the new HTML Help format (.chm). The reason I suggest this is because for Vista and 2008 Server, WinHlp32.exe is a standalone product (as opposed to Windows XP, which includes it as part of the OS) and Windows 7 Beta and RC users are left in the cold as Microsoft will only release WinHlp32.exe for Windows 7 upon the latter's RTM (release to manufacturing).
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Posted by Coderunner   USA  (27 posts)  [Biography] bio
Date Reply #1 on Sat 30 May 2009 03:59 PM (UTC)
I second this suggestion. Not only is the .hlp file format deprecated, but .hlp files are also inferior to .chm files from an accessibility standpoint as well. In an .hlp file, the screen readers I know of are forced to read all of the visible text (which may not be the entire help file at all), with no ability to freely move around in the text, whereas .chm files are much, much more accessible. The cheapest workaround to reading text in a .hlp file is to activate the edit menu and select the copy option, but this really shouldn't be necessary.
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Posted by Worstje   Netherlands  (899 posts)  [Biography] bio
Date Reply #2 on Sat 30 May 2009 04:31 PM (UTC)
I must be the only person on this planet who actually feels .hlp files are better than .chm ones. :)

While the lack of proper copying bugs me, and some other features don't vibe well with me.. it doesn't use internet explorer in its innards, which is a huge difference to me. Have you ever tried fullsearching a .chm for a certain word? The 'Find' tab on the Winhlp32 variety allows precisely that, whereas the Search tab in the new system gives far less results and usually won't let me find what I'm searching for.

Links to external websites are also a pain. Half the time they open in the .chm, which truly pisses me off, and it is rather troublesome to even get a hold of the actual link since rightclicking won't give it to me due to excessive neutering.

That said.. progress is progress. MUSHclient should go improve where possible to stay on the ball. With a bit of luck Nick can make the htmlhelp system work decently.
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Posted by Nick Gammon   Australia  (21,562 posts)  [Biography] bio   Forum Administrator
Date Reply #3 on Sat 30 May 2009 09:49 PM (UTC)
Last time I looked there were dozens of .hlp to .chm file converters available, some free, some not. I just couldn't really get the energy to puzzle out the obscure changes to the help file formats Microsoft has no doubt made, to make a decent conversion, that not only technically makes the .chm file work, but work properly.

I have previously released the help files as individual .html files, and published a plugin that does a search of them, so if there is a particular word you are looking for somewhere in the help file(s), it can be found.

If these individual .html are helpful, and anyone wants the very latest version, it only takes a couple of minutes to make a new set, from the help database.

The help database has been publicly released, along with the program I use to manipulate it. Anyone who feels enthusiastic about it is welcome to produce a converter that reads in the database and outputs into a format that the .chm compiler can use. This could probably be done in Lua, Perl, or any text manipulation language.

- Nick Gammon

www.gammon.com.au, www.mushclient.com
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