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Author Topic: Windows 10 can not read older Help files.  (Read 475 times)

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Geek-9pm

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Windows 10 can not read older Help files.
« on: February 24, 2018, 07:57:57 PM »
An old program I need runs in Windows 10 in compatibility mode.
But that is not the issue. But it is sort of related.
In that program I can not bring up the help file. From prior experience I know you can open a Help file without its program. So I thought.

Windows 10 will not let the old program read the help file, nor will Window 10 read it. However, there is a nice help thing that come sup and explains there is a help reader for other versions of Windows. I am confused. Why do I want a reader for some other version of windows? OK, think maybe thy mean that this will help me now. So I try to load these alternative help readers and they ill not install in Windows 10 32 bit.

Weill, that is just one of the reasons I can not stop using Windows XP. I will have to boot Windows XP, read the help file and maybe convert it to a format Windows 10 likes better.

Just checking to see if others have had this kind of problem. You have a program that can run in Windows 10, but the help file is not allowed.  Very strange.

BC_Programmer


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Re: Windows 10 can not read older Help files.
« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2018, 10:04:08 PM »
Those older 'HLP' files date to Windows 3.1 and have a rather complicated history. Suffice it to say that compatibility was more or less removed from Windows for those files starting with Vista. There is no "conversion" except to literally remake the help files yourself using HTML help.

It's possible to use those hotfix files for Windows 7 (or 8/8.1, probably) and force them to install on Windows 10.

I put the files together Here. It's a ZIP file download. The "install.cmd" file performs the installation (it has to run as admin- be sure to review it's contents!) I actually took that from elsewhere and fiddled with it a bit so that it would work on Windows 10. Fundamentally it copies a few files and then sets a few registry flags related to the Windows Help system, so you can use it from older applications. Before I applied it, double-clicking the helpfile for Visual Basic would take me here. Afterwards, I'm able to use the help file pretty much as expected:



I was trying to dereference Null Pointers before it was cool.

Geek-9pm

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Re: Windows 10 can not read older Help files.
« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2018, 11:52:25 PM »
Thank you for you work, BC.

Too bad MS did not make the Help format  system clean and simple from the start.

BC_Programmer


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Re: Windows 10 can not read older Help files.
« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2018, 12:45:33 AM »
The lessons learned from the design of the original Windows Help system informed the design of the HTML Help system that came later. I don't think they could have made it "clean and simple" from the start anymore than you can realistically build a house from the top down.

The original setup was more or less before hypertext was a big thing on typical systems, so it was designed in a vacuum. unfortunately the design is a bit of a mess. You had a Help Project File, the various bitmaps and a few extra file format's as well as rtf files which had markup inserted using footnotes and arbitrary RTF features, all of which you compiled to a .HLP file using a Help Compiler.

the CHM (Compiled HTML) format that came later was practically dead-simple to use by comparison. And I don't think it's prudent to have two help systems around. As much as I'm a proponent of "use things that work" you have to dump legacy stuff at some point. I imagine they've started stripping it out starting with Vista because even up through Windows XP, software was still being distributed with old-style Help files. Removing the Winhelp program definitely doesn't help users but it at least encourages developers to move towards something that is more compatible.
I was trying to dereference Null Pointers before it was cool.