General State of CHM Help

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General State of CHM Help

Unread postby alanmcd » Wed Nov 21, 2018 7:32 am

I while ago now I stopped creating CHM files from my projects and kept to Webhelp.
This was because Windows had sufddenly stopped supporting them without installing separate CHM file winhelp support.
I've never found webhelp anywhere near as good as the old CHM which also offered tooltip type popups.

But I notice there are messages here about CHM files.
So I ask - Does Windows 10+ now again support CHM help in native form? Can I distribute CHM and expect all users to be able to open them without security warnings or error messages about missing support and use the popup tooltips as they used to?

Alan
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Re: General State of CHM Help

Unread postby Tim Green » Wed Nov 21, 2018 7:50 am

Hi Alan,

If your CHMs need additional WinHelp support they are either not CHMs at all or you are using one of the odd hybrid solutions combining CHM and WinHelp that were available for a while during the transition from WinHelp to CHM. I think that Help+Manual used to support something like that but it is so long ago that I honestly don't even remember it myself. But CHMs themselves definitely do not need WinHelp support and they are (still) fully supported in all current versions of Windows.

That being said, CHM is a not quite yet a dead parrot, but it is getting there. It is abundantly clear that Microsoft has completely abandoned it as a help format. None of their own programs use it any more and they have not updated it in any significant way since it was originally released with Windows 98. All the original bugs are still there and none of the promised improvements (custom TOC icons, I hear you knocking) have ever been released. If you look at any major current Windows applications, none of them use CHM for their help any more. They all use some form of web-based support, either WebHelp or something like it. There are two main reasons for that: First, it makes it possible to update the documentation on a daily or even hourly basis without having to redistribute anything, and second the non-customizable CHM viewer is really starting to look dated, and that is the politest way of putting it. It also doesn't really support modern, high-resolution screens, and doesn't know that Unicode exists. We've done our best to improve handling of high-res displays, but there's nothing that can be done about the tiny TOC icons.
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Re: General State of CHM Help

Unread postby Martin Wynne » Wed Nov 21, 2018 8:23 am

alanmcd wrote:Can I distribute CHM and expect all users to be able to open them without security warnings or error messages about missing support and use the popup tooltips as they used to?

Hi Alan,

If you want an excellent modern replacement for distributed Help, have a look at H&M's "EWriter" option.

Tim wrote "If you look at any major current Windows applications, none of them use CHM for their help any more". Except of course, H&M. :?

Why H&M doesn't use EWriter for its own Help is one of life's many mysteries.

Martin.
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Re: General State of CHM Help

Unread postby alanmcd » Wed Nov 21, 2018 9:51 am

I see ePub and eBook - but what it eWriter?
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Re: General State of CHM Help

Unread postby alanmcd » Wed Nov 21, 2018 9:58 am

Tim Green wrote:Hi Alan,

If your CHMs need additional WinHelp support they are either not CHMs at all or you are using one of the odd hybrid solutions combining CHM and WinHelp that were available for a while during the transition from WinHelp to CHM. I think that Help+Manual used to support something like that but it is so long ago that I honestly don't even remember it myself. But CHMs themselves definitely do not need WinHelp support and they are (still) fully supported in all current versions of Windows.

That being said, CHM is a not quite yet a dead parrot, but it is getting there. It is abundantly clear that Microsoft has completely abandoned it as a help format. None of their own programs use it any more and they have not updated it in any significant way since it was originally released with Windows 98. All the original bugs are still there and none of the promised improvements (custom TOC icons, I hear you knocking) have ever been released. If you look at any major current Windows applications, none of them use CHM for their help any more. They all use some form of web-based support, either WebHelp or something like it. There are two main reasons for that: First, it makes it possible to update the documentation on a daily or even hourly basis without having to redistribute anything, and second the non-customizable CHM viewer is really starting to look dated, and that is the politest way of putting it. It also doesn't really support modern, high-resolution screens, and doesn't know that Unicode exists. We've done our best to improve handling of high-res displays, but there's nothing that can be done about the tiny TOC icons.


OK - I haven't made myself clear.
I have only used Help and Manual for CHM. Since version 4 I think? When my client moved either to CP or Win7, it finally stopped working. Windows would just open it's own help window say that chm help needed an additional install to work. I couldn't the client to consider that so I stopped and started calling the webhelp URL that I published.
But in doing so, I sacrificed the nice popups which could contain images clips and text and quickly overlay on the screen rather than take the user over to a full window browser which is always very disturbing.
I just wondered if things has change in Windows 10 or whether my current win10 server just has this support file already installed.

Will CHM open withou issue in WIndows 10? And will the invisible topics work as popups in Win10? i.e. are they supposed to work?
Alan
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Re: General State of CHM Help

Unread postby Tim Green » Wed Nov 21, 2018 11:40 am

Hi Alan,

You did make yourself clear, but something is clearly wrong, either at your end or on your customers' computer. CHM files always work on all versions of Windows, period. They have been supported fully, out of the box, on every version of Windows since Windows 98 and nothing has ever changed for that. If a CHM is refusing to display there is some other error or something wrong with the individual file. It isn't because of any lack of support of any kind for CHM in Windows, because that is simply not the case.

If you're having problems with specific CHM files please mail a demo project (NOT the CHM itself!!!) to support AT ec-software.com (replace the AT with @) together with the skin you are using and we will check it for you. Don't send CHMs by email as that will simply get the email blocked nowadays, even if it is packed in a zip (CHMs can theoretically be used to transport malware).
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Tim (EC Software Documentation & User Support)

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Re: General State of CHM Help

Unread postby alanmcd » Wed Nov 21, 2018 12:22 pm

Thanks - there's nothing wrong with the chm file.
But when I use Shift+F1 and try to get invisible topics to popup, instead I get a browser window open (2 actually)
https://support.microsoft.com/en-au/hub ... windows-10
It actually gets bounced here from a more general support link telling me about windows upates.
A few years ago it went to a different link.
I use the ec components for the WhatsThis action.

Ah ha - it's the associated .hlp file containing the popuptopics.
The .hlp file needs another file installed to open it.

That's what's triggering the re-direction to windows support
So is there a fix for this?

Alan
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Re: General State of CHM Help

Unread postby Tim Green » Wed Nov 21, 2018 12:30 pm

Ah ha - it's the associated .hlp file containing the popuptopics.
The .hlp file needs another file installed to open it.

That's what I meant by the combined WinHelp/CHM solution. Those are no longer supported, either in Help+Manual or in Windows. WinHelp is dead and will never return, it's not even a zombie.

So is there a fix for this?

The only thing to do there is to switch to the integrated JavaScript popups supported by Help+Manual. Those won't open in a separate window, but they will work. :?
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Re: General State of CHM Help

Unread postby alanmcd » Wed Nov 21, 2018 12:36 pm

Is there a current example of the javascript popups?
If I remember correctly they don't support graphic content - only text - yes?

If so, I will just have to mourn that inability to show popup unframed windows with placed graphic and text and not take the user away from the screen they are using.
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Re: General State of CHM Help

Unread postby Tim Green » Wed Nov 21, 2018 1:35 pm

alanmcd wrote:Is there a current example of the javascript popups?
If I remember correctly they don't support graphic content - only text - yes?

No, it's the native CHM popups that are plain text only. See here for instructions and an example:

https://helpandmanual.com/help/index.ht ... jspops.htm
https://helpandmanual.com/help/index.ht ... popups.htm
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Re: General State of CHM Help

Unread postby alanmcd » Wed Nov 21, 2018 11:59 pm

I know it's text only, but somehow, some topics in the popup have large (wide) boxes, and some have narrower boxes. Also there is no real indication as to where lines wrap. Sometimes where a CRLF is present, sometimes not.
Is there any ability to force new lines or use certain characters e.g. to make bullets etc?
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Re: General State of CHM Help

Unread postby Tim Green » Thu Nov 22, 2018 9:45 am

alanmcd wrote:I know it's text only, but somehow, some topics in the popup have large (wide) boxes, and some have narrower boxes. Also there is no real indication as to where lines wrap. Sometimes where a CRLF is present, sometimes not.
Is there any ability to force new lines or use certain characters e.g. to make bullets etc?

Are you referring to JavaScript popups or CHM's native plain-text popups? The only way to control the width of the native popups is to use SHIFT+ENTER for new lines instead of allowing the text to wrap. In JavaScript popups you have more options. See this topic in the help:

https://helpandmanual.com/help/index.ht ... popups.htm

There is a section there on controlling the width of your popups.
Regards,
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