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Help Builder 4.40 Preview Update Posted

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[updated 4/11/2007: Help Builder 4.40 is now available as a full release download]

I've posted a preview update of Help Builder 4.40 for existing customers of Help Builder (or those trying the demo). I typically don't do this sort of thing for Help Builder, however, this update has a number of fairly major internal re-organizations that deal with Vista compatibility as well as a new and more flexible way that templates are applied, as well as an updated output generation routine that properly takes case sensitivity into account for HTML output file generation for those handful of folks who've run into issues with loading teir help content on *nix. It'd be nice to have a few people run through their projects with this update in various different environments.

In order for this to apply this preview update, you'll need to have Help Builder 4.39 installed - shareware or full version both can be used. Since this is a preview it's not released as an automatic download update from within Help Builder as usual, so in order to install it you'll have to do the following:

  • Make a backup of your Help Builder installation directory and your project that you will be working on first!
  • Unzip the content of the Zip file into the Help Builder install directory
  • If you're running under Vista or with LUA on under XP you'll need admin priviliges to update


Topic Templates Change

Many of the new features hinge on a new feature in the Help Builder templates so in order to take advantage of this functionality you probably will either want to update your templates in your Help Builder Project, or examine the new templates and make adjustment to any custom templates you've created. The key feature change in this version is the ability to nest templates, so that you can call another template from a specific topic template. The end result is that topic templates for each project can be pretty standard with hardly any customizations at all needed between schemes while you can go wild on the headers and footers which can then only be changed in one place. Headers and footers are the obvious choice, but any template can be called from anywhere.

If you choose to update your templates to the latest version that includes header and footer templates, you can simply copy the templates from Help Builder's templates directory into your project's templates directory. If you're manually adjusting your templates you'll need to look at the new templates and potentially apply the new functionality. Note that your old templates will continue to work as is, albeit without the new header and footer templates.

Case sensitive links

When I originally built Help Builder nearly 10 years ago I didn't give a second thought about any non-Windows servers to host the generated HTML output from Help Builder. But of course many people host their sites with static content on non-Windows systems which can in fact be case sensitive. Help Builder injects a number of dynamic links and cross references and all of these have now been udpated to use lower case path names throughout.

In order for case-sensitivity to work correctly you either need to use the new templates or adjust the existing templates so that things like topic icon links are explicitly rendered lower case. In addition all image files in the BMP need to be changed to lower case (or you can copy the files from the Help Builder template). Once you got the templates and files updated locally make sure that you completely remove and re-copy the entire help project on the server to ensure that all files are properly cased.

Vista Changes

There have been a number of tweaks and fixes to ensure that Help Builder works properly under Vista. The previous rev ran fine on Vista, but relied on Vista's folder virtualization to handle updates to writable files. All updateable content has now moved off into Documents into a new Html Help Builder Projects folder, the root of which contains a couple of configuration files (wwhelp.ini specifically). Several other behind the scenes files also load in temporary locations now rather than than in the app folder itself.

The core changes are complete but I still need to deal with the Auto-update situation, which is a bit tricky. Most likely there will be a warning dialog that suggests to run Help Builder in admin mode in order to perform a product update. I can't see a way around this (short of installing a service or COM+ component that does this in the system context - no thanks).

Visual Studio Add-in and .NET Import Tweaks

There have also been a lot of updates to the two-way documentation functinality in Visual Studio. Specifically there have been a number of updates for properly handling generic imports and editing situations. The add-in menus have also been tweaked a little to provide additional in context popups for two way documentation. For those not familiar iwth this feature - you can use Help Builder to edit documentation content by sucking XML comments into Help Builder and then spitting them back into the source document either one at a time or in bulk.

There's a bunch more that's new and updated and you can find the full list here...

If you are a Microsoft MVP of any persuasion you qualify for a free, full copy of Html Help Builder. All you need to do me an email with your MVP Profile link.

Posted in Html Help Builder  

The Voices of Reason


Carl Olson
April 09, 2007

# re: Help Builder 4.40 Preview Update Posted

Look forward to giving Help Builder a spin.

Perhaps you may have some insight or sources as to why VS2005 help is soooo sloooow. I dread accidentally hitting F1 while in VS2005 as it locks it up for several minutes... only to show a totally irrelevant topic. As it is so slow, I studiously avoid intentially pressing F1.

April 11, 2007

# re: Help Builder 4.40 Preview Update Posted

I'm gonna give it a try.. Thanks :)

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