Majority of the Help Authoring Tools are paid ones, so we decided to check how to create help file using free help authoring tools. Here we will check process to create compiled help files (.chm files).

 1) HTML Help Workshop –  

HelpWorkshopLogoThe first available option is ‘HTML Help Workshop’  from Microsoft. You can get it from here –

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=21138

This is a pretty simple tool which allows to create separate files – Table Of Content (TOC) File, Html File, Text File, Index files etc.

HelpWorkshopNew

After creation of all these different files, you can create a Project and add these files to this project. Once you compile this Project and it will generate CHM (Compiled Help) file.

HelpWorkshopMainScreen

However interface of Microsoft ‘HTML Help Workshop’ is very basic and not suitable for the first time help authors.

2) HelpMaker –

HelpMaker_Logo2HelpMaker is an OpenSource project which comes with a Wizard to create help files quickly. Official Site of HelpMaker (www.vizacc.com) is not working anymore, so providing Softpedia link for software download  –

 

http://www.softpedia.com/progDownload/HelpMaker-Download-27440.html

Process of creating a Help file starts with creating a new Solution from – File Menu> New Solution

HelpMaker_CreateSolution

It comes with a pre-set list of pages which ideally should be in a Help File, we can add or modify pages –

HelpMaker_CreateSolution12

Once we are done with Wizard, we will have all the HTML Pages created with TOC and Index.

HelpMaker_MainWindow

We can edit ‘Help Topic Id’ and ‘Help Context No’ using ‘Power Editor’ (can be accessed using right click), this ‘Help Context No’ will be used to show correct page of help file depending on the context of you Software Screen from where we pressed F1.

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HelpMaker_PowerEditor

Once we are done with editing, we can compile the Solution (from Tool menu> Compile option) and it will generate a compiled help file (.CHM).

HelpMaker seemed to be a very easy to use yet powerful tool for this purpose. All other Help Authoring tools are paid and needs a license for commercial use.

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