Creating help files

About help authoring tools

There are many authoring tools and related products available for creating online help files on Windows. All of the authoring tools for Microsoft HTML Help files use the Microsoft HTML Help compiler (hhc.exe) to generate a finished help file.

What to include

The source files for any help system typically include:

  • Topic files (HTML) contain the text of your help system as well as footnote codes and commands that serve to identify the topics and provide navigation and other features.

  • Graphics files contain images associated with specific topics.

  • Project file (HHP) defines a single help collection and contains instructions for the compiler.

  • Contents file (HHC) provides the entries that populate the Contents tab of the help window.

  • Index file (HHK) provides index keywords that the author provides, similar to a traditional book index, that link to specific topics.

For each project, the compiler generates a single CHM file that can be opened in an HTML Help window.

How to proceed

If you are using a full-featured Help authoring tool, follow its instructions for creating the necessary source files and compiling them. The HTML Help Workshop, available from Microsoft with the HTML Help compiler, also has help describing how to author help and how to implement it in a Windows application.

Sample project file

For your convenience, the text of a sample project file is provided here. (It is also in one of the topics of the PBUSR190.CHM file that is installed with PowerBuilder.)

    	; Sample HTML Help project file
    	; Use a semicolon (;) to start a comment
    	; Replace filenames and other options with values
    	; for your project.

Binary TOC=No
Binary Index=Yes
Compiled File=project.chm
Contents File=project.hhc
Index File=project.hhk
Default Window=main
Default Topic=doc/html/welcome.html
Default Font=
Full-text search=Yes
Auto Index=Yes
Title=Our Application Help
Create CHI file=No
Compatibility=1.1 or later
Error log file=project.log
Full text search stop list file=
Display compile progress=Yes
Display compile notes=Yes

main="Our Application Help","project.hhc","project.hhk",


To use the sample project file:

  1. Copy the help project code to the Windows clipboard.

  2. Open a text editor (like Notepad, not a word processor like Word or Wordpad) and paste the clipboard text into a blank document.

    Alternatively, open the project file in your favorite HTML Help authoring tool.

  3. Save the document in text format as PBUSR190.HHP.

Edit your project file to specify the details of your help development environment, such as source file names and directory path names. For details, see the instructions in the HTML Help Workshop or your help authoring tool.