[dba-Tech] Help with help

MartyConnelly martyconnelly at shaw.ca
Fri Apr 21 00:45:04 CDT 2006

There is an HTML Help group on yahoo I subscribe to occasionally.
I was looking at an Access Help file creator that Shamil was involved with


It takes a day or two to get registered to avoid the spammers

So I grabbed a couple of posts that might be relevant, you can look 
through rest;)
under message titles
CHM files and XP
The official WinHelp News
At the very bottom here one guy comments on the mistakes made by MS in 


Was the .chm downloaded from the web? That's another issue caused by last
summer's security update. When a .chm is downloaded from the
intranet/internet, by default, it is disabled so that the topics (on the
right) display "This page cannot be found." This behavior can be changed by
each user if they right-click the .chm in Explorer, and choose Properties
from the floating menu. At the bottom of the dialog box they will see the
following message:

Security: This file came from another computer and might be blocked to help
protect this computer.

To the right is an Unblock button. After clicking this button, the .chm will
work correctly.

There are other ways for your IT department to unblock .chms downloaded from
the web. These are described in the Microsoft article:


Hope this helps. 
So, I summarized all the common reasons why the CHM files
aren't displayed properly in a single list. Now I refer
such complaining users to this list. You may also chech
This includes ItssRestrictions key problem


Well, before they do that they're going to have to come up with a full
replacement for application help, which Vista Help apparently isn't (no
3-pane, no TOC at the same time as content (back to the WinHelp
paradigm), viewer pane too narrow for decent-sized graphics, OS help
integrated with application help). Also, they can't cap both WinHelp and
HTML Help at the same time. Well, they can, but if they do they're going
to have a serious problem with developers and users: If HTML Help gets
trashed as well what is everyone going to do until the MS Help Team
deigns to release a viable version of Vista Help that can also be used
independently of the sidebar for application help? Use WebHelp /
Browser-based Help with hundreds of individual files? And what about
field-level help? (For that matter, what about all the field-level help
implemented with WinHelp in Microsoft's own products, even when the main
help is a CHM?) Or perhaps developers are supposed to suggest to all
their customers that now might be an excellent time to buy a Mac?

However, I do agree that Microsoft's "support" for HTML Help over the
last couple of years would tend to make one think they are not really
interested in it. Their security fixes for CHMs on networks have been
pretty slapdash -- users don't even get a decent error message when they
attempt to open a CHM on a net drive, for Pete's sake.... Both HTML Help
and its ActiveX control are still dotted with fundamental bugs that have
been documented for years and that Microsoft doesn't appear to be
interested in fixing (current directory bug, relative path bug, default
url bug for ALinks in the ActiveX control etc). And it's not that fixing
them would be a major problem -- unlike system-level WinHelp, HTML Help
could easily be updated along with a Windows hotfix. Ramifications for HTML
Help also don't appear to have had much priority when testing the other
security fixes implemented in Windows -- at least, it's easy to get that

 > Their response to those concerns in the current version of Windows has
 > been to reduce the functionality of HTML Help so that it now only
 > works for local CHMs (unless you engage in Registry-burglary). This
 > makes me suspect that HTML Help is a bit of a PITA that they'd rather
 > be without!

Well, it's not really registry burglary, any more than making registry
entries on installing a program is registry burglary, and if you do it
right the only thing that still doesn't work is shortcut links to
external files (which may just as well be because of the paths bugs as
due to an actual security restriction). The real problem is you may not
have access to the registries on the local machines if you're making a
network installation.

Generally, however, just as you have always needed to register CHMs to
make them really work properly you now need to add a few steps to that
registration if you install them on network drives. The problem is that
Microsoft has hardly advertised this fact and the documentation they
*have* published appears to be faulty and hasn't been corrected, so
anyone who tries it out can easily get the impression that it doesn't
work. For example, in the instructions posted here:


there is no mention of the fact that you need a "//file;" suffix in your
registry values when you are registering individual CHMs and/or folders
to work on network drives. For example, entering


in the UrlAllowList in the ItssRestrictions and HHRestrictions keys, as
suggested by the Microsoft instructions, does not work. But:


does. Also, the documentation is incomplete -- it doesn't even mention
the ItssRestrictions key, which is essential.

I actually have a nasty suspicion is not so much that MS doesn't care
about HTML Help, but rather that they no longer have any developers on
board who know enough about it. That could explain their behavior just
as well -- they see it as a black box whose innards they are no longer
going to touch. But if that's true it too would bode very ill for the
future of HTML Help, and with no viable alternative in sight that's
definitely not a good situation.


Jon Tydda wrote:

>Ah yeah, they didn't know either... I've done the reg hack that MS suggest,
>with the correct url, and nothing :-( They're stumped, I'm stumped, and
>everyone else who uses their DB is stumped. 
>-----Original Message-----
>From: dba-tech-bounces at databaseadvisors.com
>[mailto:dba-tech-bounces at databaseadvisors.com] On Behalf Of MartyConnelly
>Sent: 20 April 2006 17:40
>To: Discussion of Hardware and Software issues
>Subject: Re: [dba-Tech] Help with help
>Tell the guys that wrote the database to provide a sample .reg file that
>applies the fixes.
>Jon Tydda wrote:
>>Hi all
>>I've got a database that I'm having trouble getting to the help files 
>>with, since Microsoft put in some updates. According the the people 
>>that write the database, all the information I need is here
>><http://support.microsoft.com/kb/892675> , but I've tried just about 
>>every combination of the three solutions that MS offer, but none are
>>I'm just wondering if anyone knows anything about this, or whether I 
>>should just give up, and resign myself to never being able to use the help
>>The information in this e-mail is confidential and may also be legally 
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>Marty Connelly
>Victoria, B.C.
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Marty Connelly
Victoria, B.C.

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