Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Package This

I have recently come across a tool for creating local copies (Hxs or Chm files) of data found on Microsoft's MSDN and Technet sites. The program is called Package This it is hosted on Microsoft's open source hosting site.
You will need MS .Net 2.0 installed at a minimum and if you want to export the files to a help file then you will need either the .hxs SDK (MSHelp 2.0), which is a part of the Visual Studio 2005 SDK, or the .chm SDK (HTML Help Workshop).

Once you have everything installed launch the Package This exe and it will load a window that looks like this:

You can browse to the section containing the information that you need and checkmark all the boxes of the pages that you want to get or you can right click and choose 'Select This Node and All Children...'

Once you have all the pages you want to copy check marked, you can choose 'Export to Hxs File...' or 'Export to Chm File...' from the file menu and this will create the project files needed to make a help file.

I do a lot of Windows Installer packaging and re-packaging and have always kept a help file handy that covered the Windows Installer reference. And since Windows Installer 4.5 will be released in the not too distant future I started looking for an updated chm. But it seems that no one has made one, so I decided to.

So I launched 'Package This' and browsed to the MSDN section about Windows Installer right clicked and chose 'Select This Node and All Children...'. This part took several minutes as it automatically checked each page in the section I chose. After that since I want to create a Chm file I chose 'Export to Chm File...' and the following dialog popped up:

I clicked on browse, browsed to the desktop and named my chm file MSI.chm and titled it "Windows Installer 4.5" and clicked ok. This step also had to process for a few minutes but it was much quicker than the last step.

At this point I was expecting a chm file to appear on my desktop but nothing seemed to happen.

After a several tries both at home and at work I figured out what was happening. When it was done with the last step it had created all the files needed for a HTML Help Workshop project in a folder in my Temp directory (C:\Documents and Settings\USERID\local Settings\Temp\ipjfe4ee.o31\).

I browsed to my temp directory and found the most recently created folder and under that folder I saw two sub-folders, raw and chm. (TIP: Make a copy of this folder to work with. I found out the hard way that this folder will be deleted when you close 'Package This'.)

Under the chm folder I found all of the HTML Help project files and an html folder containing all the html pages and the style sheet, Classic.css. (TIP: I usually open the style sheet and change the "margin-left: 0;" to "margin-left: 10;", that is change the 0 to a 10. Without doing this the text will be flush with the left side of the page, and I don't like that myself.)

From here I ran 'HTML Help Workshop' (installed with the chm SDK) from the shortcut on my start menu and I clicked file ---> compile. Which produced a nice CHM file that I can keep on my thumb drive with my other references and my portable apps.

One thing that I noticed is that it does not create an index, which I like to have so I am now in the process of creating that index.

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