I've always used Microsoft HTML Help Workshop for creating CHM help files for my applications.

On the website you can read that the last version of HTML Help Workshop is 1.3 which was released in 2009. This could mean 2 things

  1. It's not supported any more
  2. It's perfect, so there needn't be new versions

As a tester in the QA department I can hardly believe in the second option, so I'm now looking for a tool with the following specs:

  • can create help files according to Microsoft Help technology 1.4
  • input is HTML
  • can compile the help file from command line without user interaction (suitable for continuous integration)
  • is gratis like HTML Help Workshop
  • works on Windows
  • does not use HTML Help Workshop internally (some commercial products do)

In addition I hope I will get

  • a little bit better user experience
  • I think it has no more releases because now all help is online. Think the possibility to do that as well. – Rafael May 25 '17 at 17:16
  • 1
    @Rafael: Oh, please, no. "All help online" typically means that every second help topic says "Under construction". The absence of a help file bundled with the application removes the pressure from the producer to have all help topics ready in time. "All help online" means you are never quite sure whether the documentation you are looking at applies to the software version you have installed on your machine. "All help online" means "no help available" once the software's developer has shut down their website. IMHO, relying on software documentation to be online is an abysmal idea. – O. R. Mapper May 25 '17 at 18:40
  • Then, another option is an indexable PDF document. – Rafael May 25 '17 at 18:46
  • @Rafael: That seems indeed like one of the most portable options commonly in use today, despite all its disadvantages compared to a true help reader. – O. R. Mapper May 26 '17 at 4:02

A bit late to the party but hope to give some input.

Please remember, HTMLHelp (CHM's) is nearly 20 years old and Microsoft's Windows based help system is in "maintenance mode" only. No new features and support are expected. As far as I know there is no new help systems being developed at Microsoft.

Please note ("... does not use HTML Help Workshop internally ...") HTMLHelp Workshop is required to install in any case.

You know, most time consuming step must be used for the content and with the experience you have with Microsoft HTMLHelp Workshop I'd recommend using FAR HTML as a low budget tool.

You'd use the Help Express and Wizard features - see: About FAR HTML from our Helpware Group.

FAR HTML is a collection of help authoring and file utilities. If you need to quickly manipulate HTML, XML, ASCII text files, or author help projects (HTML Help 1.x, MS Help 2.x, MS Help Viewer 1.x, Help Viewer 2.x and Uncompressed Web Help) then FAR will save you lots of time and money. You can safely use FAR HTML and MS Workshop/SDK side by side. FAR also works in batch (unattended) mode.

Further information: FAR HTML - Web Help

Foreign Language Version (partial translation available in German) and Download FAR HTML (full working trial version).

One more recommendation added:

HelpNDoc is available completely free for personal use and evaluation purposes: you can use the full version of HelpNDoc for as long as you want. All the features are available and enabled, there are no hidden fees or registration process and it doesn't contain any virus, spyware or malware of any kind. The only restriction is that the Personal Edition of HelpNDoc or its generated files can't be used for profit: only personal non-lucrative work and evaluation purposes are permitted by the license. A discreet banner is added in the generated documentation to remind that it has been created by the Personal Edition of HelpNDoc. To remove the banners and use HelpNDoc for commercial purposes, you might consider ordering a full version of HelpNDoc.

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  • Did you miss the "does not use HTML Help Workshop internally" part ? When hhc.exe crashes (which happens a lot) tools based on hhc.exe won't be able to produce any output either. – Arnaud May 23 '19 at 14:59
  • @Arnaud - no didn't miss (see my answer ..HTMLHelp Workshop is required to install in any case. and this is very special - see e.g. Bad Authoring programs install HHA.DLL -> Compiler Crash. – help-info.de May 23 '19 at 17:38

One alternative, not for the CHM program itself, but to prepare a documentation to be delivered with the program could be.

  1. A searchable PDF.

  2. A folder with Html files.

  1. Another option could be preparing the documentation as Html and then convert them as an output file to CHM. There are some Word2CHM and Html2CHM converters.

Take a look: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/27997913/convert-html-or-word-to-chm-without-installation


Probably yes, probably not.

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Help&Manual from EC Software offers a range of output formats (HTML, .chm) plus their own eWriter format and viewer (similar to .chm). Not free, but you get what you pay for.

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