Shareware Beach

Monday, 8 August 2005

CHM Files No Longer Work Across The Network

Filed under: Software Development — Jan @ 11:01

I’ve been getting a lot of complaints from HelpScribble users that their CHM files don’t work. It’s not a problem with HelpScribble, but with CHM files in general.

On Windows systems with the latest security patches installed, CHM files (compiled HTML Help files) can no longer be viewed across the network. If you open a CHM file that is stored on a network drive, you will see the table of contents and the index, but you won’t see the page content.

If you’re a shareware author, the story basically ends here. Make sure your application installs its CHM files on the local PC instead of the network by default. If you get a complaint that your CHM file shows up without content, the far most likely cause is that it was installed on the network.

WinHelp (HLP) files suffer no such problems. If you use a help authoring tool like HelpScribble, you can switch between the CHM and HLP formats at the click of a button. If your software is primarily used in a networked environment, switching to HLP is probably a good idea.

The reason for this mess is that a CHM file basically consists of a bunch of HTML files that are rendered using Internet Explorer. This means that any kind of malware that works on a web page can also be put into a CHM file. It seems Microsoft has decided that CHM files are no longer to be trusted.

It is possible to change the Windows security settings to make it possible to view CHM files across the network. That’s something you can do on your own network. You can’t ask users of your shareware to do this, however, since the changes affects the security of the whole network, not just the limitations on CHM files.

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