What's in a Help Project



A help system or help Web site is made up of several different files. Some of the files contain the text, graphics, and other elements that appear in your help topics. Other files contain information about how your help system will look and how users will navigate through your help topics. Below it is explained what files and folders play what role in your help project.

Using the Help Editor, you create a help project file to manage all the files in your help system. A process called compiling takes all the information about your help system stored in the help project file and all the related files that make up the content of your help topics, and creates a single help file. The current standard for Windows help is HTML Help. Most windows applications deliver help using one or more files with the .chm extension.

Exactly which types of files will appear in your help project file will depend on how you design your help system and whether you plan to distribute it with a program, or to a Web site. These are the most common types of files contained in a help project:

The Help Project Folder

The Help Project Folder (and it's sub folders) is the location where all files are stored which make up your help project. By default the Help Project Wizard places a new [help project folder] in My Documents\Help Generator\, but you may put it anywhere you like. Below you see the help project folder, the main help project files and it's sub folders for a new project c.

HTML Help Project related content

The files with extension .hhp, .hhk and .hhc are core files within your HTML Help project, which is what compiles to the .chm help file. With the Help Generator, these files are also used to create the Browser Based Help  from.

HTML help project file (.hhp)

An HTML help project (.hhp) file is a text file that brings together all the elements of a help project. It contains the data the help compiler needs to combine topic (.html, .htm), image (.jpeg, .gif, .png), index (.hhk), and contents (.hhc) files into a single compiled help (.chm) file. The project file also contains information about how a compiled help file will appear. Window definitions you create in the project file determine attributes of your help windows, such as size and position.

Table of Contents (.hhc)

The Table of Contents file is a text file that contains the tree structure to the main pages of the help project.

Index (.hhk)

The Index file is a text file that contains the tree structured list for all the keywords of the help project.

Full-text search stop list (.stp)

A default English full-text search stop list for you to change or expand. It makes the .chm index and file smaller.

Help Generator Project Options

This xml file contains settings that have to do with Document Generation and capturing images and is shared with the Help Capture tool.

Web Based Help

The Web based help of course uses basically the same files for content: HTML and images. 


jQuery is a cross-browser Java Script library designed to simplify the client-side scripting of HTML. Used by over 46% of the 10,000 most visited websites, jQuery is the most popular Java Script library in use today. The jQuery library is used in the help.htm 'main window' file to implement the content tree and index, tabs, several other features.

Design Files


The Help Generator puts the default style sheet in the Help project: 'css\style.css'. This style sheet contains css classes for Quickparts like 'Note'. It is good practice to put your other style sheets there too.


The Templates sub folder contains:


The Quickparts sub folder contains quickparts. These are customizable HTML files.


Some of the quickparts  - as they are included during creation of a new project - include css classes which use background images. We consider it convenient to keep these in a separate \icons folder instead of mixing them in the \images folder.

Other folders


The help generator uses the \images sub folder as the default location for storing captured images.


The BAK folder is used for keeping backup versions of the hhc and hhk (index and table of content) files. If something goes wrong with them you can replace it with the latest backup version from here..

Organizing your own stuff

You can add your own folders to the project folder to organize the help topics files.


Conditions under which using sub folders can be useful:

  • many topic files (>= 50), make a sub folder for different areas of concern in the help.
  • you intend to create several help projects that have shared content (\project1, \project12, \shared)
  • multiple authors, make each responsible for the content of one or more subfolders.
If you have a limited set of topic files you are better of not using sub folders as it is more work to work with (select or open) files when they are in sub folders.