RE: Uncompiled MS HTML Help

Subject: RE: Uncompiled MS HTML Help
From: "David Knopf" <david -at- knopf -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 23 May 2001 12:04:57 -0700

Kelly Williamson [mailto:kwcwtech -at- iwaynet -dot- net] wrote:

| (Copying the list because I think uncompiled MS HTML Help is underused and
| not very well known.)
| David replied:
| > I am referring here to uncompiled Microsoft HTML Help, using
| > Microsoft's HTML Help Java applet for navigation. I am not referring
| > to generic HTML-based Help. The latter works perfectly well.
| > However, there are numerous problems (related to performance and
| > functionality) with the Microsoft HTML Help Java applet. If you used
| > that successfully on a project, you are part of a small group!
| Count me as part of a small group that successfully used uncompiled
| Microsoft HTML Help!

Congratulations, Kelly! Based on your comments, though, it doesn't sound
like you're delivering uncompiled Microsoft HTML Help as Microsoft delivers
and supports it, but rather that you've used the HTML Help Java applet to
provide the TOC and Index for your helpset and have done some fairly
extensive customizations to compensate for the deficiencies in the
uncompiled HTML Help format, as provided by Microsoft.

- For example, you've added full text search. That's great, but it's not
supported by uncompiled HTML Help, as delivered by Microsoft. You've
implemented that separately.

- You may also have added a Favorites tab of some sort, another core feature
of compiled HTML Help that is not supported in Microsoft's Java applet.

- In fact, of the various functions supported by the HTML Help ActiveX
control, only three are supported by the Java applet: TOC, Index, and
Related Topics. (Uncompiled HTML Help does not support ALinks, Shortcuts,
WinHelp links, and so forth.)

- Your helpsets may be relatively small, or your helpsets may be locally
installed, in which case the fact that the HTML Help Java applet takes 500%
longer to load than the ActiveX version may not be an issue for you.

- I suspect you also had to implement a workaround for the defect in the
scrolling mechanism for TOCs that are taller than the frame in which they
are displayed and for the refresh bug that affects some Netscape users.

None of this is to say that you can't use the HTML Help applet to create and
deliver helpsets successfully. You can, but it takes a fair amount of extra
work, as you discovered, to get a result that's really useful. And once
you've done that extra work, you've based your navigation system on an
applet that Microsoft does not intend to enhance or improve. I believe there
are better solutions available from other vendors, including Deva Tools for
Dreamweaver (, WebHelp, InterHelp, and WebWorks Help.


David Knopf (mailto:david -at- knopf -dot- com)
Knopf Online (
Tel: 415.550.8367

RoboHelp MVP & Certified RoboHelp Instructor
WebWorks Publisher Certified Trainer
Member, Sun's JavaHelp 2.0 Expert Group
Member, eHelp's RoboHelp Community Advisory Board
Co-moderator, HATT & wwp-users


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Uncompiled MS HTML Help: From: Kelly Williamson

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