Read CHM Files without IE?

  • Thread starter Howard Schwartz
  • Start date

H

Howard Schwartz

I've asked this question in different ways before:

I know I can decompile a chm help file into 39 odd separate html files or
so, create a table of contents, but possibly lose the index and other info.

But the prospect of navigating dozens of new html files, is not a happy
alternative to using the original chm file, necessitating a relatively
current IE installation. I want IE or as much of it as possible off my hard
disk.

Is there a good way to recompile the chm files, (possibly into the old
windows help system?) into another help system -- so I have a more
manageable alternative to chm help?

Or - is there a minimal set of IE dill and other files needed to view chm
help, and a way to render help screens with another browser than IE ?
 
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B

B. R. 'BeAr' Ederson

Or - is there a minimal set of IE dill and other files needed to view chm
help, and a way to render help screens with another browser than IE ?

Take a look at the XChm project:

http://sourceforge.net/projects/xchm

When you follow the 'Files' or 'Download' links you need to click on
'View all project files' to see the entries for XChm 1.0, too. It is
the latest release with Win32 binaries that I know of.

A different approach takes the BartPE ViewChm plugin:

http://viceroy.web1000.com/viewchm.htm

It tries to counterfeit the IE by replacing some files and registry
entries by links to the default browser.

BeAr
 
H

Howard Schwartz

ake a look at the XChm project:

http://sourceforge.net/projects/xchm

When you follow the 'Files' or 'Download' links you need to click on
'View all project files' to see the entries for XChm 1.0, too. It is
the latest release with Win32 binaries that I know of.

A different approach takes the BartPE ViewChm plugin:

http://viceroy.web1000.com/viewchm.htm

It tries to counterfeit the IE by replacing some files and registry
entries by links to the default browser.

I tried these and found the results disappointing. I still have hopes of
tracing what dll libraries and such HH.exe calls when it processes a
chm program, and to what extent rendering the frames-like display requires
unique features of IE. I have from sysinternals two programs that monitor
calls to the registry and files, while a program is running. But so far
these do not produce enough detailed information.

I find the chmencoder adequate for decompressing html help into dozens of
html files. And one probably could put thee back into a zip archive or
something and arrange for an alternate viewing strategy. But this is too
much bother for me, for each chm file I want to read.

I am still surprised other browser developers for Opera, firefox and so on
have not reverse engineered this process. Reading the increasingly popular
chm help files is a formadable reason to keep using IE instead of another
browser.
 
M

me

I tried these and found the results disappointing. I still
have hopes of tracing what dll libraries and such HH.exe
calls when it processes a chm program, and to what extent
rendering the frames-like display requires unique features
of IE. I have from sysinternals two programs that monitor
calls to the registry and files, while a program is
running. But so far these do not produce enough detailed
information.

Try Dependency Walker
http://www.dependencywalker.com/

J
 
H

Howard Schwartz

(e-mail address removed) wrote in news.ops.worldnet.att.net:

Actually the program, hhexplore.exe suggested earlier is surprisingly
effective at displaying chm file help, weighing in at only about 2K.

Now I just have to make sure this program does not call or get help
from some IE related files, (e.g., dlls) and I can happily through away
my IE files. Oh - one more issue before I become foolhearty: I also
need to check if the programs (e.g., like xnews) that display a a
url in their text in the ``default browser'' -- will work when I
make firefox my default browser.

Last time I checked this did not work. That is, xnews would not use
firefox to render such URLs, even though I used setbrows to set it
as the default. Again, I need to follow what exactly in the registry
programs like xnews read to show you their URLs.

Bill Gates warned that it aint as easy as one thinks to purge IE from
his OSes!
 
M

me

(e-mail address removed) wrote in
news.ops.worldnet.att.net:


Actually the program, hhexplore.exe suggested earlier is
surprisingly effective at displaying chm file help,
weighing in at only about 2K.

Now I just have to make sure this program does not call or
get help from some IE related files, (e.g., dlls) and I can
happily through away my IE files. Oh - one more issue
before I become foolhearty: I also need to check if the
programs (e.g., like xnews) that display a a url in their
text in the ``default browser'' -- will work when I make
firefox my default browser.

-snip-

Dependency Walker would show what hhexplore.exe needs.

J
 
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B

B. R. 'BeAr' Ederson

Actually the program, hhexplore.exe suggested earlier is surprisingly
effective at displaying chm file help, weighing in at only about 2K.

Now I just have to make sure this program does not call or get help
from some IE related files, (e.g., dlls) and I can happily through away
my IE files.

There have been quite a few articles about minimum files required for
viewing Html Help files using the IE engine. The absolut minimum (with
some functionality missing) was v3-something. Version 4 should usually
be okay for most files. An article about a minimum install for v5.xx
can be found here:

www.helpfulsolutions.com/Silent_IE5_Install.htm

Following it will not *really* create the absolute minimum, but a
reasonable convergence to that aim.

The Dependency Walker approach mentioned should usually be okay. But
bear in mind, that you only see modules which are necessary for just
the loaded *.chm. More complex help files may need calls to other
functions which result in the requirement of additional libraries.

Btw.: If you stick to a solution which still uses IE libraries to
render *.chm files, you could stay with hh.exe, too.
Bill Gates warned that it aint as easy as one thinks to purge IE from
his OSes!

It has been one of their worst moves to anchor IE deep into the Windows
system. Just to win the browser war and to block cartel investigations,
they created an interweaved mix of system and user level programs,
which nowadays is cause of most security holes detected. :-(

I've been through *very* small installations of Win9x with optional
"plugin" of additional functionality if need arose. Viewing *.chm
files more than doubled the installation. (If I recall correctly.)
Html Help doesn't just depend on libraries, but on *technologies*
like DCOM and scripting. Which by themselves use a whole lot of
files...

And just to answer your (possibly) next question: Although I have
stored some information about these minimum installations, I will
not share that here. The requirements of *.chm files have increased,
since. That's because additional gimmicks got popular among authors
of Html files. (Technologies not used in the earlier days of Html
Help.) The information is quite huge and requires some deeper
knowledge of the internal working of the Windows system to be
understood and used. I'm not willing to start sth. which most
possibly will result in much additional support/explanation
requirements. Sorry.

There have been some projects on the Net, afterwards, which talk
about that topic more en-detail. You'll see how complex a matter
that is when digging into the detailed information provided. (Or
browse their scripts...) Look for MinWin9x, 9xLite and such. Some
tools and information provided there are free, some are not. If
you don't know it by now, check IERadicator for a start:

www.litepc.com/ieradicator.html

HTH.
BeAr
 
T

Terry

I still have hopes of
tracing what dll libraries and such HH.exe calls when it processes a
chm program, and to what extent rendering the frames-like display requires
unique features of IE. I have from sysinternals two programs that monitor
calls to the registry and files, while a program is running. But so far
these do not produce enough detailed information.

I find the chmencoder adequate for decompressing html help into dozens of
html files. And one probably could put thee back into a zip archive or
something and arrange for an alternate viewing strategy. But this is too
much bother for me, for each chm file I want to read.

The simplest way to do this, I think, is to install Firefox and the
MAF extension. Decompress the chm file, using whatever tool you like
(hh.exe will do it without any need for other tools). Then open the
base file in firefox, and save it all as a MAF file.

Actually, you could probably automate this pretty easily with
something like Autoit.

But a chm file includes not only the HTML pages, but also the index
and table of contents. You won't see those in any other browser unless
it can understand the chm file format -- decompressing essentially
throws that away. And those are powerful tools in a chm file, so you
don't want to lose them.
I am still surprised other browser developers for Opera, firefox and so on
have not reverse engineered this process. Reading the increasingly popular
chm help files is a formadable reason to keep using IE instead of another
browser.

Huh? You can use IE to render chm files while still using another
browser to browse and surf the web. That gives you the safety of, say,
Firefox, while not losing the ability to view chm files. If you
install Firefox and set it as the default browser, when you open a chm
file windows still opens IE, not Firefox.

If you're running a software firewall, you can even set IE so it can't
access the web.

If you use Windows Update, you have to leave IE installed anyway for
that. Why spend your time trying to irradicate it? Use IE when you
have to, and use Firefox (or whatever your preference is) for nomal
browsing.

T.
 
H

Howard Schwartz

The requirements of *.chm files have increased,
since. That's because additional gimmicks got popular among authors
of Html files. (Technologies not used in the earlier days of Html
Help.) The information is quite huge and requires some deeper
knowledge of the internal working of the Windows system to be
understood and used.

Leave it to microsoft to make what could have been a straightforward help
function a tangled mess. Of course that was probably the idea, to force
non-power users to stay with MS. I wish othe freeware authors would not
cooperate so much by using chm files so extensively for help.

Sounds like the choice for non-obsessive types like me, is to live with
some microsoft files you do not want, or go to the trouble of unpacking
chm files into htm files, build a contents file (not hard) and create
a home grown compressed help system with these files. The latter is not
technically challenging, but tedious to do.

Perhaps I can automate such conversions, for myself anyway.
 
H

Howard Schwartz

On Sat, 22 Apr 2006 12:21:07 -0500, Howard Schwartz
But a chm file includes not only the HTML pages, but also the index
and table of contents. You won't see those in any other browser unless
it can understand the chm file format -- decompressing essentially
throws that away. And those are powerful tools in a chm file, so you
don't want to lose them.

Not as hard as it might seem: decompressing gives you the contents# file,
or whatever they call it, which displays fine in MS help workshop. More
to the point - the title in each html file seems to correspond to one
of the topics. So you can easily build an html version of the table of
contents, using a tool like dir2html. The latter, build a page with
links to each file, listing the files html title as the title.

The index is harder, but one can build a database with a tool like
Wilbur with key words from these files, and use Wilbur as your
index.
Huh? You can use IE to render chm files while still using another
browser to browse and surf the web. That gives you the safety of, say,
Firefox, while not losing the ability to view chm files. If you
install Firefox and set it as the default browser, when you open a chm
file windows still opens IE, not Firefox.

Not so easy as it sounds. I am doing that now, while I decide what to do.
If I use IE only for CHM files, I merely have a lot of files on my
disk I do not want, and a less efficient OS (i.e., as discussed by
iradicator).

But with IE as the ``default'' other applications, email clients and so on
launch IE, not Firefox when I click on internal URLs, etc. Then comes
the security holes, the spyware and the rest that comes with IE.

It is not straightforward to define firefox as the default browser and have
it display chm files for you: I will not and does not do it for various
reasons: It does not use microsoft's DDE file sharing technology, so it
does not easily get launched from other applications. In general it is
tricky to define firefox as the default, and change all the needed
registry entries, etc. -- so you retain the offline browser functions
you desire.
If you're running a software firewall, you can even set IE so it can't
access the web.

If you use Windows Update, you have to leave IE installed anyway for
that. Why spend your time trying to irradicate it? Use IE when you
have to, and use Firefox (or whatever your preference is) for nomal
browsing.

SEe the problems above.
 
M

Mark R. Blain

Leave it to microsoft to make what could have been a straightforward
help function a tangled mess. Of course that was probably the idea,
to force non-power users to stay with MS. I wish othe freeware
authors would not cooperate so much by using chm files so
extensively for help.

In a recent posting in <the
announcement was made that the old .HLP windows help format would no
longer be supported in Windows Vista. Winhelp.exe will not be
included with the operating system, and may or may not be available as
a download from Microsoft.
<http://groups.google.com/group/micr...&q=winhelp+deprecated&rnum=1#57510bcf217e1af9>
Another .CHM alternative bites the dust.
 
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H

Howard Schwartz

f you use Windows Update, you have to leave IE installed anyway for
that. Why spend your time trying to irradicate it? Use IE when you
have to, and use Firefox (or whatever your preference is) for nomal
browsing.

Because, as the authors of irradicate mention, win98 for instance is a
more stable, secure OS with faster file management, if you remove IE from
it.
 

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