What is it?
v0.6.1 beta (but fully working)
Freeware (no ads, no nag screens, no limitations, no 'phone home', no spyware etc.)
Author: Finn Ekberg Christiansen
Tip from PowerBASIC Peer Support Forum: Using different fonts in an [SHM] project
[What's new?] [Download page] [Mailing list] [E-mail] [More of my software]
You can download the fully working beta version from this page. Don't forget to download the help compiler too (if you haven't already).
Join my mailing list if you want to be kept informed of new versions. Click here to go to the list home page where you can subscribe and unsubsribe.
For new users
I've now added a "How to get started, step-by-step" page to the help file. Open the page from the Help menu.
Shalom Help Maker is absolutely free! But if you want to make a small donation (and I could use the money, since I'm jobless), click on this button, or come back later, after testing Shalom Help Maker:
But please don't feel obliged. This version of Shalom Help Maker (and most likely also the final version) is freeware!
When you've used Shalom Help Maker for some time, please go to this page and write a short review (your opinion, good or bad) and give it a rating. Thanks!
Yeah, yeah, but what is it?
Shalom Help Maker (SHM) is a Windows help file editor that does not need MS Word. It supports images, popup windows, links to other pages, web pages, E-mail addresses etc., and has automatic updating of links (jumps to other pages) when pages are rearranged or deleted, listing of unused bitmaps and popup pages, listing of links to the present page ... and lots more.
SHM makes old-fashioned hlp files, not chm files (HTML based help files). It runs on all Windows versions, including XP.
Unlike other help file creators, Shalom Help Maker works like any ordinary editor and therefore has practically no learning curve. You don't have to know anything about help file making. Just start typing, insert pictures and write page headers. Hit F4 to get a preview of a page or F9 to compile (make) the whole help file.
You don't need MS Word to write help files! Shalom Help Maker (SHM) is your editor and you produce the help file with SHM and the help compiler (separate download found on the download page).
This is Shalom Help Maker with the Page Jumper activated (press Alt+End or Alt+right-click):
The second horizontal toolbar, the left vertical toolbar and the row of snippet buttons can be hidden to provide more writing space on small screens.
Here's an overview (present status) of some of SHM's functions and limitations:
LINKS, TARGETS AND JUMPS
You can make popup windows, jumps to other pages or to targets, KLinks, links to internet pages (or E-mail addresses) and execute external files.
To help you manage your help file project these tools have been added:
- The Page Jumper opens right in the middle of the editor and displays a list of all pages. Click a page to go there.
- Quick help: If a word or a code is selected when you press F1, the help file will be searched for the word.
- Write multiple lines of page titles on page 1 of a new project, select the lines, press Ctrl+P and have the pages made automatically with the page title already entered in the Header text box of each page.
- Automatic updating of links and jumps (when you rearrange, add or delete pages).
- Automatic checking of whether there are links to a page you want to delete.
- Copy Project Help File To... (copy the compiled help file to another folder).
- Show Links To This Page.
- Show Links To This Target.
- List Occurences Of (get a list of every instance of the search phrase and double-click an item in the list to go there).
- Show Project Stats (get a list of pages, the length of each page (character count) and the page header).
- Show Unused Bitmaps (get a list of unused bitmaps found in the project folder).
- Check Topic IDs... (this is useful when reusing pages from other help projects or from a snippet, in which case you might happen to insert a topic ID that points to a nonexistent page)
- Show Unused Popup Pages (get a list of popup pages not linked to in your project).
- Bitmap Information List that gives you a list of all bitmaps and lets you use the information in various ways.
- Check If Bitmaps Exist (check if any bitmaps used in the help file project is missing).
- Ready-to-print list of all pages, their context ID numbers, topic IDs, page headers and page name constants.
- Quick preview of the present page. Only the page you're working on will be compiled (uncompressed=fast).
- Quick preview of the front page.
- Keyword editor. Browse or search all the pages' keywords from within the keyword editor.
- Page Organizer. Arrange your pages into sub-groups (used in the Contents window in the compiled help file and to generate a front page if you wish). You can even sort selected pages alphabetically.
- Header Editor. Edit the page headers from here. Generate page name constants for your programming project (Delphi/C++/C/VB).
FREE CHOICE OF COMPRESSION LEVEL
Level 0 lets you compile real fast (great while you're working on a project) and level 1 or 8 gives you optimum compression (use just before distributing the help file). All compression levels supported by the compiler are available.
If you select a word before opening the 'Insert jump to a target' window, the word will be inserted as the hotspot text and the target names will be searched for a target name that contains the word. So this is what you might see when opening the window.
Use the Project Options to choose font sizes and fore- and background colors for the entire help file.
Apply bold, italic or underline formatting to selected text. Align text or pictures (left, center, right).
A header or a paragraph can be framed. Just select the text and click the Box button.
You can define 16 different (text) colors in each project. Select the text and click a color on the vertical toolbar. Or click a color and then add text in between the tags. Each project can have a different set of colors. The colors are saved in the shp (project) file. So when you load a project the colors on the toolbar will change to that project's colors. The color will be represented (as code in the editor) by a number (1..16) that will be substituted with the actual color when compiling. This means that you can change a certain color through the whole help project just by changing the color definition (right-click any color on the toolbar and change the color in the Text Color configuration window).
Each project is saved with its own options (language, character set, colors, font size, font color, front page/no front page etc.).
In this window you can also save your choices as default values for new projects.
In this window you can choose highlighting colors, editor font, editor background color, tab length, left margin, the size and position of the compiled help file and more.
Each of the 6 snippet buttons can be assigned a number of snippets (code and text fragments).
Right-click any button to open the Snippets Configuration window, where you can add, move, copy and rename snippets.
When you have used a snippet (by selecting it from the button menu) you can repeat it by pressing Ctrl+Shift+E.
The Page Organizer makes it easy to move pages. Click the buttons to move pages around or press Ctrl+Arrow Up/Ctrl+Arrow Down. You can even have selected pages sorted alphabetically. When you close the window all links and jumps in the project are automatically updated. If you delete a page Shalom Help Maker tells you if there are links on other pages that point to the page you are deleting. You can then cancel the deletion or ignore the warning.
FINDING A PAGE
If you have a lot of pages in your project you can use the the Page Jumper (hit Alt+End) or the Go To Page menu to quickly jump to a specific page.
Or open the Page Organizer (hit F5) and double-click the page you want.
In the Header Editor you can have Shalom Help Maker generate help page constants for programming purposes (or you can enter them yourself).
Using these help page constants you don't have to change the code when you move or add pages. Just copy the constants and paste them into your project (Delphi/C++/C/VB). Click a button to write the constants to disk or copy them to the clipboard.
You can choose language and character set to make help files with non-western languages and characters.
Right-to-left writing (used in Hebrew, Arabic etc.) isn't supported!
Only bmp images are supported by Shalom Help Maker (not the rarely used dib or wmf). The Microsoft help compiler doesn't support the JPG format. GIF images can be used, but aren't explicitly supported by Shalom Help Maker (since tests show that BMP files are compressed more effectively than GIF files). Click the Insert Image button to insert an image in your project. The image can be copied to the project folder by clicking a button.
Formatting codes, comments, targets, image codes and URLs (web addresses) are highlighted (i.e. given a customizable font color and/or background color) in the editor.
The editor supports multiple undo/redo levels and drag'n'drop of text.
CONTENTS AND INDEX
On each page you can fill in a Keywords text box with page related keywords separated by semicolons. These keywords can be found in the index of the help file after compiling.
The page headers (which you enter in the Header text box) will automatically be used as keywords also.
You can organize the pages with the Page Organizer. The result will be visible in the Contents window of the compiled help file. If you need the headings in the Contents window to differ from the page headers, you can enter alternative headers in the Header Editor.
Each page has a context id (number). The front page (if any) has a customizable number (default is 9999). The first page is 1, the next 2 etc. These contents numbers can be used from within your programming environment to open the help file to a certain page (but you should use the page name constants from the Header Editor).
HANDY CONTEXT MENU
Right-click the editor window to display the context menu. If you left-clicked a topic ID and then right-clicked, you can jump directly to that topic/page (SHM will select the topic ID):
See for yourself. It's old-fashioned freeware. There's no time limits, nag screens, ads or 'call home'.
WHAT IS MISSING?
Shalom Help Maker is a work in progress, so there's still stuff missing (and it WAS really meant to be VERY simple....):
- spell checking (won't be added)
- local font size change (might be added)
- printing of the shp-file (might be added later)
- printing of the Help file (won't be added, but you can easily print each topic of the
compiled help file: click File menu/Print Topic...). Or you can print the contents (sub topics) of a book icon by clicking the icon on the Contents tab, and then clicking the Print button on the Contents tab (at the bottom).
- secondary windows (don't know yet)
- tables (I have been working on adding tables - and will again - but Windows does not really contain a suitable control/grid for this purpose)
- support for bitmaps with hotspots (probably not)
- support for GIF images (won't be added; doesn't reduce the file size; see help file about this)
- customizing of the buttons and menu items of the help file (maybe, maybe not)
- import functions (won't be added)
- export functions (very probably won't be added; but remember: the RTF-file that Shalom Help Maker produces when you hit F9, has a standard format, and thus can be imported into some other help file making applications!)
- right-to-left writing (don't know how; have tried very hard without success; I think I'll have to buy a 3rd party control, which I can't afford anyway; very little documentation from Microsoft is part of the problem)
- max number of pages/topics is 1024
- and more...
Borland Delphi 4 on Windows 2000/XP. Works on other Windows versions too, though.
Updated Oct 12th, 2006 (Just removed link to a gone-away review + added tip from PowerBASIC)
Finn Ekberg Christiansen, Copenhagen, Denmark, Scandinavia