Microsoft HTML Help

Knopf Online is a leading provider of HTML Help-related services to the software development community. We provide this HTML Help information page as a public service. Please take a moment to find out about our HTML Help development services.

HTML Help Overview
Key Resources
Recommended Reading
Online Communities & Discussion Lists
HTML Help Development Services

HTML Help Overview

Microsoft HTML Help is a browser-specific Help solution optimized for delivering online Help for applications running on Windows 95, 98, NT, or 2000. When Microsoft released HTML Help in 1997, the plan was for HTML Help to replace WinHelp. Although Microsoft quickly adopted HTML Help for most of its own products, the rest of the industry was slower to adopt the new technology. Now, however, HTML Help is widely used for locally installed online Help for applications that run under Microsoft Windows.

To create HTML Help, authors create topic files in HTML format. The topic files, together with a few project files and ActiveX controls, are compiled using Microsoft's HTML Help compiler. The compiler produces a .chm file, which is then distributed to users of the Help system. Help authors can use a variety of tools to produce Microsoft HTML Help, including RoboHelp, Doc-To-Help, ForeHelp, HDK, and WebWorks Publisher.

In order to view the .chm file, users must have installed both Internet Explorer (version 3.02 minimum, 4.0 or later for full functionality) and the HTML Help system components. chm files cannot be viewed in any version of Netscape Navigator.

Internal Link See a screen shot of HTML Help
Internal Link View a sample HTML Help Help system (see Note)

Note: To view the sample HTML Help system, you must have IE4 or later and the HTML Help components installed on your machine. Choose "Open this file from its current location" in the dialog box that appears after you click this link. If you do not have IE4+ and the the HTML Help components, you will not be able to view the sample HTML Help system.

Key Resources

Note: If you are creating Microsoft HTML Help systems, you will benefit from having at least basic familiarity with core Web technologies like HTML and CSS. This is true even if you are using a Help authoring tool.

Internet Link Microsoft's HTML Help Web site - Ground zero for developers of Microsoft HTML Help, this is the Microsoft HTML Help Web site. Here, you'll find the latest news from the Microsoft HTML Help team. Microsoft recently moved the download page for HTML Help Workshop, so if you need to download HTML Help Workshop, go to the Office XP Resource Kit page.

Internet Link Keyworks Software - The brainchild of Ralph Walden, former head of WinHelp and HTML Help development at Microsoft, and Cheri Lockett Zubak, Keyworks specializes in software for online documentation. Essential utilities for HTML Help authors.

Internet Link Helpful Solutions: How to Create a Silent, Minimal Install of IE5 - Paul O'Rear's excellent instructions on creating a silent, minimal install of Internet Explorer 5.

Internet Link HTML Help Center - Maintained by David Liske, Microsoft HTML Help MVP, this Web site is loaded with HTML Help information with a particular focus on the Visual Basic environment. (This site requires that you use Internet Explorer.)

Internet Link Helpware Group - Maintained by Robert Chandler, Microsoft HTML Help MVP, this Web site has lots of information on HTML Help and FrontPage and lots of information helpful to those working in the Delphi environment. Includes a dedicated area for HTML Help technical information.

Recommended Reading

The Official Microsoft HTML Help Authoring Kit: Understanding, Creating, and Migrating to Microsoft HTML Help by Steve Wexler, Microsoft Press, February 1998, ISBN: 1572316039. This book is somewhat out-of-date, having been published even before HTML 1.0 was released. However, it remains the only available third-party book on the subject.

Online Communities & Discussion Lists

HATT - The Help Authoring Tools and Technologies group is a moderated discussion list for topics related to Help authoring and online information design and development. The HATT group was formed when the old WINHLP-L discussion list was closed. Discussion topics include help technologies like WinHelp, HTML Help, JavaHelp, WebHelp, and WinHelp 2000, authoring tools from various vendors, and issues related to design, development, and deployment of online Help systems. You can participate in the group through its Web interface or subscribe and receive messages by e-mail. David Knopf is a moderator of the HATT list, which has more than 2,000 subscribers worldwide.

Find out about HATT / Visit the HATT home page

MSHelp2 - The MSHelp2 group is a moderated discussion list for topics related to Microsoft Help 2.0, the announced but as yet not released successor to Microsoft HTML Help.

Find out about Microsoft Help 2 Visit the MSHelp2 home page