First look at the free Help 2.x Authoring in Visual Studio 8.0
by MVP Rob Chandler - 4-Nov-2005
See also: MS Help 2 Info | MS Help 2 Version History
I wish I could say installation was easy. It took 24hrs to download the 2.7GB DVD Image of VS v8 PRO RTM (download speed dropped quickly as word spread of its availability). I installed onto my work and home PCs. Both complained of various installation errors so I had to run VS 8 Repair to fix the problems. MSDN library would not install on one PC so I had to downloaded the separate VS 2005 MSDN Library DVD image as well.
The Help 2 SDK is now incorporated into the Visual Studio 2005 SDK (formally know as VSIP). A free download although you must login before you can download.
Help SDK provides Documentation, H2 compiler, Help authoring (workshop) tool and Deployment tool.
VsSDKOctober2005.exe download size was 84.6 MB. My first two download attempts produced corrupted files. 3rd download installed successfully.
At the end of the VS SDK installation you should see a screen like this:
In the past you opened Visual Studio and found Help Project items in the File > New Project window.
Here as you can see I only have the MS Help Integration Wizard, which you will need if you want to use the MSI help merge modules provided by Microsoft.
Note: VS 2005 SDK documentation contains info on using the Help Integration Wizard.
You can download the VS 2005 compatible Help Integration Wizard from the same location as the VS 2005 SDK:
Microsoft have in fact replaced their barebones workshop with a version of HelpStudio Lite by Innovasys. This is good for MS who can now provide customers with a better Help 2 authoring tool as well as have more time to spend on their next generation help system (AP Help). This is also good for Innovasys who will hopefully pick up a few new customers as users upgrade from the Lite to the full version.
MS H2 Workshop, now HelpStudio Lite, is no longer integrated into VS 2005. It is a separate application.
Go to Start > Program > Visual Studio 2005 SDK, click on HelpStudio Lite.
The VS 2005 SDK documentation is the best place to start.
Go to Start > Programs > Visual Studio 2005 SDK, click on October 2005 Help.
The documentation covers
- All the usual help 2 reference material
- New Visual Studio APIs
- HelpStudio Lite
When you run HelpStudio the first screen tells you up front. Support is handled by Innovasys not Microsoft. HelpStudio is not an MS product.
HelpStudio Lite is a fully featured authoring tool for authoring MS Help 2 content. With built in HTML editor, VS 2003 and VS 2005 styles, Spell checking, Link checking, registration tools... its all there. It presents nicely dressed by default in the blue Office 2003 theme.
The full version of HelpStudio is available for a modest fee of around $439 and includes many extra tools including (lifted directly from the online help):
- HTML Help 1.x, pure HTML (including full text search) output;
- PDF Booklet output;
- Conditional Content and Build Flags to support generation of multiple outputs from a single source;
- Customizable Content Helpers library to aid with the creation of rich content, including drop down and expandable sections, tip, note and alert boxes;
- Source Control functionality for team working and collaboration;
- Integrated screen capture and image manipulation tools including a unique 'User Interface Mapper' which can be used to create and modify marked up screenshots (e.g. bullets, color washes, call-outs). The markup is stored separately from the screenshot allowing the resulting image to be easily rebuilt if the screenshot changes.
- Fully documented Automation and Extensibility APIs for extending and automating HelpStudio.
The other reason to purchase the full version is to get full support, upgrades, improvements and bug fixes. The Lite version will probably stay as is.
Go to the Innovasys web site for further info: http://www.innovasys.com/
Subject: Re: HelpStudio Lite and 02/2006 VS SDK
Date: 3 Mar 2006 09:44:12 -0800
I installed the 2006.02 Visual Studio SDK on two computers and cannot seem to get HelpStudio Lite to work. The application will open with a blank license agreement screen, and when I click accept nothing happen. The HelpStuiodLite2 process is still running in taskmanager...
The only thing that I have common between these two computer is the installation of the WinFX SDK. Anyone else having this problem?
Hello, There is a hotfix available for this problem, which is caused by an incompatibility with Internet Explorer Beta 2. Eric has now got the hotfix, but if anyone else has the same problem, just contact me or support@innovasys(nospam).com for the hotfix.
This problem will also be fixed in the next version of the Visual Studio 2005 SDK.
Help Studio Install Stuck in loop
Date: Feb 2006
I had a weird problem where HS worked ok one day. The next day when I started HS up the Installer locked me in a loop trying to locate some MSI file. Repair / reinstall did not help. The guys at Innovasys hadn't seen this one before.
In the end I used our free program MsiFix to delete all HS MSI (MS Installer) info from the registry. This then allowed a successful uninstalled and reinstalled.
Other Problems? Go to Innovasys Support Page
FAQ, Knowledge Base search, etc
I know many authors will get a lot of good use from HelpStudio Lite. The old MS H2 Workshop (shipped as VSHIK) was very basic and probably not used by many authors.
Note our own shareware products FAR HTML and H2Reg provide many extra HH 1.x and Help 2.x related tools. Please check them out as an alternative or complementary set of tools.
Back to MS Help 2 Info Page