What is Helpful Solutions?
Paul O'Rear, the owner of Helpful Solutions, is an independent contractor providing consultation and custom software development services for Online Help authors and application developers; specializing in customizations to the online help systems. Some of the services we provide are:
- Custom Application/Utility development
- WinHelp/HTML Help DLL extensions (custom functions or Help Topics dialog tabs)
- Macromedia Dreamweaver custom extensions
- Microsoft Word Macro Programming (WordBasic or VBA)
- Help interface troubleshooting
- On-site debugging of your application's help system design
Helpful Solutions clients and contributions:
- Helpful Solutions has provided unique custom solutions working around several
limitations of the Windows help engines, winhelp.exe and winhlp32.exe, and
custom add-on solutions for Help Authoring needs. Some of the companies they
were designed for and the solutions provided include:
- Weisner Associates, Inc. &
Deva Associates, Ltd. - Deva Tools for Dreamweaver. Deva Tools
is a suite of integrated utilities that work with Macromedia Dreamweaver
4 (Windows PC version) to create navigation systems for your web site,
intranet, or HTML-based help. Helpful Solutions developed the TOC and
Index Editor and the engine supporting the TOC and Index data storage
including various file format importing and exporting.
- Creative Solutions -
An infinite Back button functionality across window types and topic/window
enforcement, ensuring that a topic gets displayed in the window it was
- ViaData Incorporated - A custom
annotation editor and annotations that are persistent across builds of
a help system.
- FMPlus - a shareware add-on for WinHelp that allows deletion/disabling/enabling
of the standard WinHelp floating context menu. Click
here to download the latest version.
- Paul is responsible for discovering and documenting some of WinHelp 3.1s
undocumented macros; in particular ExtInsertItem() and ExtInsertMenu(). (cf.
Windows/DOS Developers Journal, Vol.5, No.12, December 1994: “More
Undocumented WinHelp Macros” by Jim Mischel), as well as the single WinHelp
4.0 undocumented macro - Tab().
- Paul is well-known in the online-help industry for the online consultation
he provides. He serves as one of the moderators for the new HATT
egroup (which took over from the WINHLP-L listserv), and is also one of
the sysops in the Microsoft DevApps Forum on CompuServe (GO MSDEVA), where
he supports the WinHelp/MediaView/Viewer and HTML Help Authoring sections.
- Paul has done a thorough disassembly of the WinHelp 4.0 viewer (WINHLP32.EXE)
for exploratory and consultation purposes.
- Helpful Solutions has discovered and given public lectures on several undocumented
features of the WinHelp 4.0 viewer (WINHLP32.EXE)
- Paul has presented sessions at several WinWriters, Help University, and
Influent online help conferences on the following topics:
- Deploying IE5 with your HTML Help System
- Implementing Context Sensitivity in WinHelp and HTML Help
- Undocumented Windows Help 3.1/4.0 - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
- Programmer's Roundtables
- MVP Update
Helpful Solutions awards:
||Paul has been recognized by Microsoft for his contributions to the Online Help community and is a current Microsoft HTML Help MVP.
Articles of Interest by Paul A. ORear (Owner, Helpful Solutions):
Helpful Solutions Downloads:
All downloads made available here are not to be made available for download anywhere else without the express permission of Helpful Solutions/Paul A. O'Rear. Thank you for your cooperation!
- HTML Help File Explorer - Try out this cool tool which allows you to look at HTML Help files of all types, save out any internal file individually, and even view hex dumps of binary internal files. Click here to download now! (260Kb)
- HTML Help DLL Registrar - The installation program for the HTML Help Compiler Workshop (otherwise known as the HTML Help Kit) for a number of versions appears to have a bug in that it doesn't registrar several key DLLs that it requires for things like converting an old WinHelp project into an HTML Help project. One such version is the latest one - ver. 1.3. This little program asks you where you installed HTML Help Workshop and then registers all of the DLLs it requires. *New in version 1.1* - now includes support for registering the standard HTML Help runtime components (ITIRCL.DLL; ITSS.DLL; HHCTRL.OCX). Click here to download now! (184Kb)
- HLP to HTML Help Convertor Fixer - Despite the problems that HTML Help DLL Registrar attempted to fix (various DLL components of the HTML Help Workshop not being registered properly) it now appears that the infamous message that frequently gets displayed - "The DLLs necessary to convert RTF to HTML have not been installed correctly. Reinstall HTML Help Workshop and try again." is somewhat bogus. Despite DLLs being registered correctly, the convertor DLLs will bring up this message whenever they come up against something they don't understand in the source files. One such thing that was discovered recently is the usage of an RTF token (\*) that indicates non-essential text to an RTF reader. One non-Word based Help Authoring Tool (HAT) emitted RTF that used this token along with the \footnote token which is absolutely essential for WinHelp source files, but the convertor inadvertently appeared to ignore the \footnote token when preceded by the \* token. In any case, this little applet scans a WinHelp project file (.hpj) for a project's RTF files, backs up the RTF files, and then fixes the RTF source files by simply deleting the \* token when used in coordination with the \footnote token. Click here to download now! (142Kb)
One other scenario that I know of will also break the HLP to HTML Help convertor, but I believe may be a rare occurence. If you continue to have problems with the convertor after using both HHDLLReg.EXE and HHCvtFix.EXE, please contact me.
- HelpAPI VBA module - This is a fairly simple yet effective module for calling either WinHelp or HTMLHelp files from Microsoft Office applications. Click here to download now! (12Kb)
- Paul's Personal Picks - an online bookstore of various types of literature that I've either read or the bookclub that I participate in has read in the past. Most of the books are highly recommended.
- Music to THRAK by... - An online music store of favorite and highly recommended music. (recently updated!)
The links below serve as both an example of current Online Help technology and a service to Paul ORears kin.
Click here to view the ORear Family Sketches using the new HTML Help standard developed by Microsoft.
Click here to view the ORear Family Sketches with a browser that supports frame sets.