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I know this has gone round and round the list before. . .sorry.
Our app doesn't run in a browser either, and we use HTMLHelp. HTMLHelp
doesn't require that you have the browser open, it requires that you
have IE 4.0 or higher, or the necessary .ocx components (and others)
installed on your system (along with the help file). You don't have to
ever open the browser to view the help, the help uses the HTMLHelp
engine (whatever it's called) to launch the help. (The problem comes in
when users are accessing the help file from the web using a non-IE
browser, not a problem when accessing the file from their machines.)
In fact, our app is developed in C++. We simply include IE 4.0 in the
installation. There's a place on the Microsoft web site about
distributing IE, and they provide a kit to do it.
There's a great book I just started that I highly recommend regarding
HTMLHelp: Official Microsoft HMTL Help Authoring Kit by Steve Wexler.
As a side: I don't know about JavaHelp, but the upcoming update of
HTMLHelp will allow developers to update the help files on people's
systems, in much the same way as how you update your virus files in
Norton Antivirus or McAfee, except that the update can be invisible to
the user. This allows help authors to update files frequently without
forcing the user to reinstall the help system. The help file goes out to
the web and downloads the changes.