Help Compiler

Recently our team has migrated from Visual Studio 6 to Visual Studio 2005. This was a long overdue upgrade. We skipped over some intermediate versions of the tool. And I think it made our migration more difficult. Most of our applications are old and have no built in help systems. However one recent application has a pretty good contextual help system. The developer tasked with migrating that application complained that the compilation for the help bombed immediately.

After a bit of research, the developer found that Visual Studio 2005 does not by default install the Microsoft Help Compiler. This seemed very strange. What was Microsoft thinking? They do provide a freely downloadable help compiler. Maybe developers no longer ship help with their applications. Or maybe they use other tools like RoboHelp from Adobe. I don’t know.

I believe Microsoft ships its Visual Studio 2005 on DVD. There should be plenty of room on that DVD for the Help Compiler. Not including it has made our life a bit more complicated. It is no big deal for developers to download and install the help compiler. But things get tricky for other individuals. Our configuration management team normally does our builds. They did not know how or where to install the Help Compiler.

To tell the truth, I have not even installed the Help Compiler on my machine. I guess I will not be building that application locally any time soon. Before completing this post I decided to browse the web to find out why Microsoft chose not to include the Help Compiler with Visual Studio. I think I quickly found out the answer. Microsoft’s new solution for help is HTML Help. Perhaps the old Help Compiler (which Microsoft calls the WinHelp Compiler) is going out of style.

My hope is that Microsoft does not leave us stranded having developed an extensive WinHelp component to one of our applications. Why convert to a new HTML Help system when it will not improve our end user experience any? Knowing Microsoft, I had better brush up on the new HTML Help system to be safe.

Microsoft Marketing

I recently read a blog post making fun of a Visual Studio advertisement by Microsoft. This interested me because I had seen the ad in a magazine before and thought it was funny. The ad features before and after pictures of a developer who has started using Visual Studio. Apparently Visual Studio has enabled the developer to get a better laptop, a BMW to drive, and the attention of some attractive females in his cubicle.

The blog post is from . This is a blog about open source software. So you know it was going to razz Microsoft. Essentially the author modified the ad, and pointed out the humor that ensues. It was nice to see that there were 30 responses to the blog entry. And I wanted to add my 2 cents. Unfortunately I got the following automated reply when I tried to add a response”:

“Sorry, but your comment has been flagged by the spam filter running on this blog: this might be an error, in which case all apologies. Your comment will be presented to the blog admin who will be able to restore it immediately.
You may want to contact the blog admin via e-mail to notify him.”

Now I am hoping that a human will review my response. It was actually a meaningful reply that was not spammy in the least. A human should be able to detect this. My first thought about being rejected by spam filter was maybe due to the fact that I have black hat in my e-mail address. Then I started thing some more. I am a Microsoft developer. In other words I am pro-Microsoft. Maybe the blog author has written a really smart spam filter that blocks out posts that are not pro-open source.

To quickly determine whether my e-mail address was the problem, I submitted the same response to the blog post using another email address. This time I made sure there was no reference to “black hat” in my e-mail or home page URL. I still got the same automated response from the blog. Who knows? Maybe all responses must get approved by the blog author. Well just for that I am not linking to his blog from this post.