Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Windows Vista and Windows Help

I have to admit, I really enjoy reading Microsoft documentation. Especially marketing fluff. I have nothing better to do each day. Why not just waste it reading Microsoft marketing fluff, excuse me ... developer documentation. Maybe your familiar with what I'm writing about, the documentation that tells you how good Microsoft is but doesn't really tell you how to implement any of their technologies. My second favorite Microsoft documentation to read is the You can't do it this way anymore, but were not going to give you any links, cause we change them daily, so good luck figuring it out on your own style of documentation.

I've been reminded of my Microsoft documentation pet peeves, as I'm currently focused on migrating some old Windows Help files (.hlp files) to Vista.

Source: http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa480152.aspx#appcomp_topic15
Windows Help (WinHelp.exe and WinHlp32.exe) is being deprecated for Windows Vista. Windows Help is not supported in Beta 2 and some of the Windows Help code has been removed for the release ... HTML Help and .CHM files will continue to be supported for Windows Vista.

Source: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/917607/en-us
We strongly recommend that software developers stop using the Windows Help application in Windows Vista. Software developers who ship programs that rely on .hlp files are encouraged to transition their Help experience to an alternative Help file format, such as .chm, .html, or .xml. You will also have to change your calls from the WinHelp() API to the new content source.

Now I know HTML Help has been around forever, almost as long as WinHelp. But I don't work with Html Help everyday, so they should say. HTML Help uses the HtmlHelp api, here is a link to the documentation. Don't force me to use the msdn search engine, it's useless.

For my own benefit, a few years down the road if I actually have to worry about help files again.

Source: MSDN Documentation
The HTML Help API function is modeled after the WinHelp API function to simplify the process of updating existing programs from WinHelp to HTML Help. However, the HTML Help API command names and parameters are not the same as those in the WinHelp API, and the output file formats are very different.

Useful links:

http://www.help-info.de/en/Help_Info_WinHelp/hw.htm
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=00535334-c8a6-452f-9aa0-d597d16580cc&displaylang=en
http://www.helpblocks.com
http://frogleg.mvps.org/helptechnologies/htmlhelp/hhtutorials.html#lammers_api

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