Creating and Managing help in 1.x and 2.x format

 
While developing my first .net project, I was asked to create compiled HTML help (.CHM) also. I searched for the tool on internet and got a tool on microsoft site i.e. HTML help workshop. The way it generated the help actually fascinated me. Later on I used this tool in many of the project to create help.
 
After the launch of Visual Studio .net (i.e. VS2002), Microsoft changed the help format and it was known and Help 2.x format. VS 2002 onward versions used code comments in the code itself and compiler generates the xml document file that was used by help generation tools to create 1.x (.chm) and 2.x format help.
 
I thought putting information about various tools available for help generation at one place will be a definite help for anybody interested in help generation and for me also, as i don’t have to recollect it again and again :-).
 
There are few tools on windows platform to create Help in 1.x and 2.x format.
 
1. HTML help workshop : This tool creates compiled html help (Help 1.x) from the html files. Download url is http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=00535334-c8a6-452f-9aa0-d597d16580cc&DisplayLang=en
 
2. NDoc : NDoc is an Open Source help generation tool, that is used to generate help in 1.x and 2.x (for VS 2003) format. The download url is http://ndoc.sourceforge.net/
 
The version that support VS2005 style help is still in alpha. It can be downloaded from http://www.kynosarges.de/NDoc.html.
 
3. Visual Studio.net Help Integration Kit 2003 : The Help Integration Kit provides documentation and samples that show how to integrate new Help content into the Visual Studio development environment. This version of the integration kit targets Visual Studio .NET 2003. Download url is http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=CE1B26DC-D6AF-42A1-A9A4-88C4EB456D87&displaylang=en
 
4. Sandcastle : The sandcastle is new help generation engine for .net that create MSDN style help (2.x) by reflecting over the source assemblies and optionally integrating XML Documentation Comments. SandCastle doesn’t provide any UI for help generation. The download url for Sandcastle October CTP is http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=E82EA71D-DA89-42EE-A715-696E3A4873B2&displaylang=en.
 
For generating help using Sandcastle, you will require Html Help Compiler (hhc.exe) for 1.x help and MS help compiler for 2.x help. The 2.x help compiler comes with the Visual Studio 2005 SDK 4.0 (http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=51A5C65B-C020-4E08-8AC0-3EB9C06996F4&displaylang=en).
 
5. SandCastle Help File Builder : This is nDoc style GUI and Console based tool that uses SandCastle as help generation engine to generate MSDN style 1.x, 2.x and html help. The tool can be downloaded from http://www.codeplex.com/SHFB.
 
6. DocProject : DocProject drives the SandCastle help generation tools using the power of Visual Studio 2005/2008 and MSBuild. The tool can be downloaded from http://www.codeplex.com/DocProject.
 
Also there is SandCastle Extension project ( http://www.codeplex.com/sandextensions ) on codeplex that adds some missing features in the original sandcastle distribution and Visual Studio 2005 Addin suite (http://www.codeplex.com/SandcastleAddIn) that enhances the help generation experience.
 
7. Innovasys HelpStudio Lite : This is MSDN style help 2.x generation tool that comes free with Visual Studio 2005 SDK 4.0. It also provide tool to integrate the 2.x help with the MSDN collection. For further information visit the site http://www.innovasys.com/products/hs3/overview.aspx.
 
8. SandCastleGUI : This is a free GUI for the SandCastle to generate help for .net. The tool can be downloaded from http://www.inchl.nl/SandcastleGUI/.
 
9. Far HTML and H2Reg : These are shareware tools for generating help in 1.x and 2.x format. Far HTML contains help viewer where you can view 2.x help without integrating it with the document explorer. H2Reg is alternative to help integration using MSI installer. These tools can be downloaded from http://www.helpware.net/. This site is a good resource for help generation faqs and information.
 
I think this is enough for the time being. I will update on other help generation tool once I encounter them.
 
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