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MargoS

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Help System

How do you create a Help System in Visual Basic 6?
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GivenRandy

This is generally a very hard topic. The Help Compiler Workshop comes with Visual Basic. Look for it in the Tools\Hcw or Common\Tools\Hcw directory on your Visual Basic CD-ROM.

The idea is you create a topic file containing the text of the help. You use an arcane set of footnotes defined by Microsoft to indicate links, topic titles, index entries, etc. You save this file in RTF (Rich Text Format), a format supported by many advanced editors including Word.

Next you create a project file that defines some topic numbers and identifies the help source file(s). You run the help compiler to produce the finished .HLP file.

Finally, your program can use the CommonDialog control's ShowHelp method to display the help file. To see an example program that does this:

http://www.vb-helper.com/HowToBeg.htm

Click the "Implement standard File and Help menu commands" link.

All in all, creating help is quite difficult. The help compiler itself is unfriendly and slow, particularly for large help files. If you have an error, the compiler is uninformative. The Help Compiler Workshop puts a front end on some of the process, but it's still hard. Some third party help systems make things easier.  One that I recommend is Windows Help Designer:

http://www.winhelp.gr/whd/whd.html

You might also consider HTML help. Microsoft is pushing it as the method of the future. That does not mean traditional help will go away any time soon, however. I don't know how to create Microsoft's fancy compressed help files (they probably have a tool), but you can easily create your own HTML pages with hyperlinks to provide a quick and easy help system.
A useful component to use compiled HTML Help files is HTMLHelpAPI (see http://www.neco-ti.com).
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ASKER

Thanks for your help.  Everyone submitted great answers but, the HelpScribble site is really great!

Thanks again