This documented was started by MVP Pete Lees.
If you don't mind the dependence on the Windows Operating system, HTML Help is the best choice. The runtime ships with Windows 95 and greater. Microsoft have created other help systems since WinHelp (.hlp) and HTML Help (.chm) but they are tied to various systems:
We do desperately need a Unicode help platform to replace WinHelp and HTML (both ANSI). Disappointing that none of these help systems (all Unicode based) have been released for general use. Having said that, none are easy systems to author in.
All these MS help systems are now in "maintenance mode"; no new features are expected, and only critical updates will occur from now on. As far as we know there is no new help systems being developed at Microsoft.
All the following books provide detailed information on how to create WinHelp files.
Microsoft's HTML Help Workshop is available from:
There's a useful tutorial on how to build help files with HTML Help Workshop at:
And there are several books on the subject:
Jeannine Klein's book is the more up-to-date and detailed of the two, but it does not cover certain subjects that Steve Wexler's book describes in some depth (notably context-sensitive help and uncompiled HTML help).
You can spend a lot of money on "bells and whistles" tools that simplify and streamline the process of creating help files. Before you do so, it is worth trying out a few freeware/shareware tools, available from http://helpmaster.helpmvp.com. Then, if you decide to buy one of the more expensive tools, have a look at these resources:
Help Authoring Tool Comparison Matrix:
For reviews of four popular help authoring tools, see:
Besides the Microsoft sites, the best places to look for information on HTML Help are:
Also check out the Helpware HTML Help FAQ:
If you can't find the answer you're looking for, try posting your questions to one of the online support groups.