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 and personal experience, I tell you that it's not option 2. 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
    Commented May 25, 2017 at 17:16
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    @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. Commented May 25, 2017 at 18:40
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    Then, another option is an indexable PDF document.
    – Rafael
    Commented May 25, 2017 at 18:46
  • 1
    @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. Commented May 26, 2017 at 4:02
  • Thomas, I don't know quite how I stumbled across this eight year old question, but I starred it as favourite - probably when you asked it - and would still love an answer. Did you find one?
    – Mawg
    Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 10:37

6 Answers 6


The chmcmd executable that is distributed along Freepascal (https://www.freepascal.org/) is a command line alternative that can create chm files from the same sources supported by the HTML Help Workshop.

It is GPL licensed but this should not be a problem since no direct linking will be done with the software and instead just running it from the command line.

In my tests after FPC version 3.2, it just worked and I replaced the, now not anymore available from Microsoft, HTML Help Workshop, with it in my workflow.

I couldn't, though, find a convenient prepacked, standalone version of the chmcmd binary so if someone has ideas on making it more convenient to use, I would like information.

  • I think that this is the best option today. I ran it on Win11x64 without any issues, it runs much faster than hhc.exe plus gives warnings about inconsistencies (in my case an undefined anchor on another page). Find it, for example, in \lazarus\fpc\3.2.2\bin\x86_64-win64\chmcmd.exe for Lazarus 3.0.
    – Wolf
    Commented Feb 28 at 10:20
  • We should keep in mind that this is not only a free tool, but also open source, as Free Pascal is under GPL license. It is also self-contained and small: the 64-bit binary is 845 KB in size. So it can do its work from anywhere.
    – Wolf
    Commented Mar 1 at 11:07

Please note - Updated 2021-03-04 (and 2023-11-22)

Further development of FAR HTML has been discontinued. A year ago, the shop at helpwaregroup.com was closed. As the translator (DE) of the software at the time, I have no contact with the former developer at the moment. I assume the domain will be abandoned.
I will continue to provide the download of FAR HTML as freeware and the corresponding licence keys as far as possible at:

The download link of Microsoft HTMLHelp Workshop Compiler is broken.
You may want to download from web archives or the link below:

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

Please remember, HTMLHelp (CHM's) is nearly 25 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 freeware tool now.

You'd use the Help Express and Wizard features - see: FAR HTML Tour.

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 Features

Foreign Language Version (partial translation available in German) and Download FAR HTML (Freeware 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.


I actually use HelpNDoc as part of me help authoring process.

It allows you to build your help documentation in a variety of formats from the same source data. In my case I use two formats:

  • CHM
  • HTML

The HTML data files system gets uploaded to my website. Here are three live examples:

As you can see, the online HTML version of my help systems have a Table of Contents and Search features. I made customizations to the build process to include the Scroll to Top icon in the bottom right.

But at the same time, I can, and do, compile CHM versions of the help documentation which I put on my website packaged in setup executables. My software allows you to choose to download and install the CHM version of the help systems if you don't want to use the online HTML version.

As mentioned, HelpNDoc allows you to build your help system for several other formats:

enter image description here

  • ePub
  • Kindle
  • PDF
  • QT Help
  • Word

I have not really tried to use all of the other export formats. But I have found it a versatile and useful application for all my help authoring requirements.


I should point out that HelpNDoc is available as a free version too.


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.

  • 3
    Can you give a link to the product? Are you affiliated to that company?
    – albert
    Commented Feb 27, 2020 at 17:21
  • 1
    @albert - Help&Manual from EC Software Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 17:30
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    I edited the answer to include the link provided in the comments, since there is no guarantee that these comments will remain. Commented Dec 27, 2020 at 16:46

I've been using MS HTML Help Workshop since 1998.

Yes it's quirky but it just does the job reliably. So every couple of years, I look at the replacements, many of which offer a lot more than MS Help usually at a price. And I always drift back to MS Help.

To answer the OP, MS Help is not perfect, but it's pretty close for what it aims to do. A more modern UI would be nice, but enjoy the retro feel of something that was originally developed for Windows 95 !

  • I'm using HTML Help Workshop since 2003 and its bugs are really annoying when you have larger projects. When using it, you basically need to know how it works internally. Yes, I can do that, because I learned it. But I don't want to do it myself (because my position allows it) and I don't want to make a tutorial for everyone else either. Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 11:23

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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