Monday, March 18, 2019

Minimizing West Wind HTML Help Builder Uploads

I’ve been using West Wind HTML Help Builder for about twenty years (it’s hard to believe it’s been that long, but I checked) and still love it as much as ever. I looked at a lot of HTML Help generating tools over the years and it’s still the best one in my opinion.

One of the features I love about it is the ability to generate not just a CHM file for a desktop application but also HTML files for a web application or to post the documentation on a web site. For example, we provide online versions of the developer and end-user documentation for our products (for example, for the Stonefield Query report designer), both so prospective customers can review it before they buy and so we can point customers asking support questions to the relevant topic with a simple URL instead of “open the help, then navigate to …”.

At a recent conference, I was asked if there’s a way to reduce the number of files needed to be deployed to a web site to provide online help. I used to deploy the files directly from the project folder so I wrote some code that uploaded only those files that are actually required because there are a ton of files that aren’t. Fortunately, I don’t need to do that anymore because a new feature in Help Builder does this automatically: after building the help, click the Copy to Folder button to create a deployment folder with only the required files, then use something like FileZilla to upload the contents of that folder to the web site. FileZilla and other FTP programs are typically faster than homegrown code like mine or the code used for the FTP Web Upload function in Help Builder, likely because they use multithreading to upload several files or chunks of files at once rather than one at a time.

However, even the Copy to Folder function copies a few more files than necessary. Here are files you can delete from the deployment folder before uploading (which of course you could automate with a PRG or PowerShell script):

  • bmp: any images for topic types you aren’t using, such as classcontructor.png. Typically, the only ones I keep are folder.png, header.png, index.png, topic.png, and whatsnew.png. Also, the contents of the image subdirectory of the bmp folder aren’t used anywhere and can be deleted.
  • html: this folder is empty and can be ignored.
  • images\images: the only file in this folder is wwhelp.png and it doesn’t appear to be used anywhere (there’s another copy of this file in images, which is used in the various HTML documents unless you customize the templates to not use it as I have).
  • templates\scripts: ww.jquery.js: this is the unminified version of ww.jquery.min.js.
  • templates\scripts\bootstrap\dist\css: bootstrap.css, bootstrap.css.map, bootstrap-theme.css, bootstrap-theme.css.map: these are unminified versions of other files or map files which aren’t needed.
  • templates\scripts\bootstrap\dist\js: bootstrap.js, npm.js: unminified or unneeded files.
  • templates\scripts\highlightjs\styles: any css file you aren’t using, as determined by the Theme setting in the Content Editor page of the Options dialog. I typically use vs2015.css in my projects so I delete the rest.
  • templates\scripts\jquery: jquery.js, jquery.min.map: unminified or map files.

Removing unused files saves about 1.5 MB, which may not sound like much in these days of large hard drives, but that shaves a bit of time off the upload process.

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