OS/2 INF help support

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OS/2 INF help support

Graeme Geldenhuys-4
Hi,

I know that the FP IDE (text mode) has support for reading OS/2 INF help
files. This is pretty cool and it works with just about any INF file I
threw at it. :-)

I read my old VisualAge for C++ for OS/2 docs and it says that to
generate a INF you need to create the help markup (similar to HTML
apparently) in the IFP file and then compile it with the IBM IPFC help
compiler.

Does anybody know if there is an open-source IPFC help compiler? One
implemented in Object Pascal maybe?

I'm been doing some reading on various help file format - to be used in
my applications and possible Lazarus IDE. From my OS/2 2.1 and OS/2 Warp
days I remember the INF help was very impressive. Searching was
lightning quick even on old hardware and INF files a few megabytes in
size.  Apparently this is due to the very efficient INF help format.

Anyway, I want to try and implement a GUI version of the INF Help Viewer
code available in the FP IDE. But ultimately, I would like to compile my
own help as well, under Linux and Windows. Would this be possible?

Regards,
  - Graeme -

--
fpGUI Toolkit - a cross-platform GUI toolkit using Free Pascal
http://opensoft.homeip.net/fpgui/

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Re: OS/2 INF help support

Michael Van Canneyt


On Tue, 8 Sep 2009, Graeme Geldenhuys wrote:

> Hi,
>
> I know that the FP IDE (text mode) has support for reading OS/2 INF help
> files. This is pretty cool and it works with just about any INF file I
> threw at it. :-)
>
> I read my old VisualAge for C++ for OS/2 docs and it says that to
> generate a INF you need to create the help markup (similar to HTML
> apparently) in the IFP file and then compile it with the IBM IPFC help
> compiler.
>
> Does anybody know if there is an open-source IPFC help compiler? One
> implemented in Object Pascal maybe?
>
> I'm been doing some reading on various help file format - to be used in
> my applications and possible Lazarus IDE. From my OS/2 2.1 and OS/2 Warp
> days I remember the INF help was very impressive. Searching was
> lightning quick even on old hardware and INF files a few megabytes in
> size.  Apparently this is due to the very efficient INF help format.
>
> Anyway, I want to try and implement a GUI version of the INF Help Viewer
> code available in the FP IDE. But ultimately, I would like to compile my
> own help as well, under Linux and Windows. Would this be possible?

Standard answer I give to my boss in such cases:
"Given time and money, anything is possible"

:-)

I suppose you'd need the INF specs in order to make a compiler for it.

Michael.
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Re: OS/2 INF help support

Marco van de Voort
In reply to this post by Graeme Geldenhuys-4
In our previous episode, Graeme Geldenhuys said:
> I'm been doing some reading on various help file format - to be used in
> my applications and possible Lazarus IDE. From my OS/2 2.1 and OS/2 Warp
> days I remember the INF help was very impressive. Searching was
> lightning quick even on old hardware and INF files a few megabytes in
> size.  Apparently this is due to the very efficient INF help format.

Or maybe because it cached the search index to disk, like most helpfiles.

This is what I'm currently researching for CHM. (merged CHMs/.chw files)
While currently it is fast enough, performancewise, "nice" results probably
need to mine more info.
 
> Anyway, I want to try and implement a GUI version of the INF Help Viewer
> code available in the FP IDE. But ultimately, I would like to compile my
> own help as well, under Linux and Windows. Would this be possible?

I'd go shopping by the OS/2 centric compilers like sybil and vpascal. But
fat chance that they used some OS/2 tool for it that isn't ported.
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Re: OS/2 INF help support

Tomas Hajny
In reply to this post by Michael Van Canneyt
On Tue, September 8, 2009 12:07, Michael Van Canneyt wrote:

> On Tue, 8 Sep 2009, Graeme Geldenhuys wrote:
>
>> Hi,
>>
>> I know that the FP IDE (text mode) has support for reading OS/2 INF help
>> files. This is pretty cool and it works with just about any INF file I
>> threw at it. :-)
>>
>> I read my old VisualAge for C++ for OS/2 docs and it says that to
>> generate a INF you need to create the help markup (similar to HTML
>> apparently) in the IFP file and then compile it with the IBM IPFC help
>> compiler.
>>
>> Does anybody know if there is an open-source IPFC help compiler? One
>> implemented in Object Pascal maybe?
>>
>> I'm been doing some reading on various help file format - to be used in
>> my applications and possible Lazarus IDE. From my OS/2 2.1 and OS/2 Warp
>> days I remember the INF help was very impressive. Searching was
>> lightning quick even on old hardware and INF files a few megabytes in
>> size.  Apparently this is due to the very efficient INF help format.
>>
>> Anyway, I want to try and implement a GUI version of the INF Help Viewer
>> code available in the FP IDE. But ultimately, I would like to compile my
>> own help as well, under Linux and Windows. Would this be possible?
>
> Standard answer I give to my boss in such cases:
> "Given time and money, anything is possible"
>
> :-)
>
> I suppose you'd need the INF specs in order to make a compiler for it.

Full specs for the binary format have never been made available by IBM as
far as I know (as opposed to the IPF markup language specification, of
course). There are some 3rd party documents based on reverse engineering
of the binary files - see e.g. http://www.edm2.com/0308/inf.html.

Regarding available code - the more modern version of the INF viewer
(NewView) distributed with eComStation (the latest versions of OS/2)
nowadays is written in / compiled using Sibyl compiler, i.e. in Object
Pascal, and the full source code is available as far as I know. However,
I'm not aware of any IPF compiler apart from that one produced by IBM and
included in OS/2 Developer Toolkit among others (still downloadable today,
although not from IBM pages any longer, I believe). I found the following
reference http://www.mail-archive.com/sibyl@.../msg00233.html (it
refers to http://www.netlabs.org), but I suspect that the promise
mentioned there has never materialized.

>From technical point of view, I'd say that INF format capabilities in the
area of graphical layout might be considered outdated nowadays. Whether
this is important for your needs or not is another question, of course.
There were some very powerful capabilities (e.g. possibility of
creating/using special plugins directly invokable from the particular
document via a DLL call), but these have never been exploited fully even
under OS/2 and are obviously not well portable across different operating
systems.

Tomas


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Re: OS/2 INF help support

Tomas Hajny
In reply to this post by Marco van de Voort
On Tue, September 8, 2009 13:35, Marco van de Voort wrote:

> In our previous episode, Graeme Geldenhuys said:
>> I'm been doing some reading on various help file format - to be used in
>> my applications and possible Lazarus IDE. From my OS/2 2.1 and OS/2 Warp
>> days I remember the INF help was very impressive. Searching was
>> lightning quick even on old hardware and INF files a few megabytes in
>> size.  Apparently this is due to the very efficient INF help format.
>
> Or maybe because it cached the search index to disk, like most helpfiles.
>
> This is what I'm currently researching for CHM. (merged CHMs/.chw files)
> While currently it is fast enough, performancewise, "nice" results
> probably
> need to mine more info.
>
>> Anyway, I want to try and implement a GUI version of the INF Help Viewer
>> code available in the FP IDE. But ultimately, I would like to compile my
>> own help as well, under Linux and Windows. Would this be possible?
>
> I'd go shopping by the OS/2 centric compilers like sybil and vpascal. But
> fat chance that they used some OS/2 tool for it that isn't ported.

VP doesn't use .INF files even internally (proprietary help format,
similarly to TP) and certainly doesn't provide an IPF compiler. For Sibyl
I strongly believe that they rely on the IBM tool.

Tomas


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Re: OS/2 INF help support

Graeme Geldenhuys-4
In reply to this post by Marco van de Voort
Marco van de Voort het geskryf:
>
> Or maybe because it cached the search index to disk, like most helpfiles.

As far as I can see, from reading various INF docs is that the IFP
Compiler generates the index and keywords at compile-time and are built
into the single .INF files. Also every single word only appears once in
the INF files, all other instances are simply pointers. So this
increases the lookup speed a lot as far as I can see. I guess this
contributes to the size factor as well. The VisualAge C++ for OS/2 Users
Guide is 1300 pages (with screenshots) and the INF file is only 4.5MB in
size! God knows how they managed that!

PS:
It was so cool going through my old software boxes. VisualAge C++ for
OS/2 came with 5 printed manuals and a CD-ROM. The box it came in is
think cardboard and measures in around 30x30x30 centimetres. HUGE! :-)
You don't see that these days!

PS #2:
I found the source code for Sibyl IDE which contains a GUI help viewer
(NewView) implemented in Object Pascal (I think it's Free Pascal
Compiler compatible).

Regards,
  - Graeme -

--
fpGUI Toolkit - a cross-platform GUI toolkit using Free Pascal
http://opensoft.homeip.net/fpgui/

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Re: OS/2 INF help support

Graeme Geldenhuys-4
In reply to this post by Michael Van Canneyt
Michael Van Canneyt het geskryf:
>
> I suppose you'd need the INF specs in order to make a compiler for it.

The spec was never released by IBM as far as I know. But I see the Open
Watcom project (actually one guy only - Lawrence Haynes) reverse
engineered the IPFC compiler and rewrote a clean-room implementation so
they can compile their documentation under OS/2, Windows, DOS and Linux.
The new compiler is called 'wipfc' and the source code is available with
Open Watcom project.

I'm downloading it now. So with no effort, I get a linux IPF Compiler. Cool!


Regards,
  - Graeme -

--
fpGUI Toolkit - a cross-platform GUI toolkit using Free Pascal
http://opensoft.homeip.net/fpgui/

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Re: OS/2 INF help support

Graeme Geldenhuys-4
In reply to this post by Tomas Hajny
Tomas Hajny het geskryf:
> I'm not aware of any IPF compiler apart from that one produced by IBM and

Actually Lawrence Haynes, from the Open Watcom project re-engineered a
clean-room implementation for the Open Watcom project. It is called
'wipfc' and source code is available. There now exists native IPF
Compilers for OS/2, Windows, DOS and Linux.


>>From technical point of view, I'd say that INF format capabilities in the
> area of graphical layout might be considered outdated nowadays. Whether

Can you explain this in more detail? I remember reading many years back
an OS/2 e-Zine magazine which contained many images (logos, screenshots
etc) and it worked fine.



Regards,
  - Graeme -

--
fpGUI Toolkit - a cross-platform GUI toolkit using Free Pascal
http://opensoft.homeip.net/fpgui/

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Re: OS/2 INF help support

Marco van de Voort
In reply to this post by Graeme Geldenhuys-4
In our previous episode, Graeme Geldenhuys said:
> Marco van de Voort het geskryf:
> >
> > Or maybe because it cached the search index to disk, like most helpfiles.
>
> As far as I can see, from reading various INF docs is that the IFP
> Compiler generates the index and keywords at compile-time and are built
> into the single .INF files.

That's something that CHM does too, and nearly any format. I'm talking about
when you press F1 in the IDE and those indexes must be combined in the IDE,
and a popup must be shown if there are multiple entries over various files.

> Also every single word only appears once in the INF files, all other
> instances are simply pointers. So this increases the lookup speed a lot as
> far as I can see. I guess this contributes to the size factor as well. The
> VisualAge C++ for OS/2 Users Guide is 1300 pages (with screenshots) and
> the INF file is only 4.5MB in size! God knows how they managed that!

The entire FPC docs + the Lazarus LCL together is 10MB in CHM. (with the LCL
chm being 40% or so of that number) You have been printing it, so you know
the number of pages.

Note that this is without the binary TOC that Andrew implemented last night.
(and the binary index still yet to come I hope)

I'm not yet entirely convinced what the interesting part of the .INF stuff
is, what CHM doesn't provide.

> PS #2:
> I found the source code for Sibyl IDE which contains a GUI help viewer
> (NewView) implemented in Object Pascal (I think it's Free Pascal
> Compiler compatible).

Don't forget licensing issues. Also keep in mind that portable editors and
generators for HTML are plenty. What about .INF? Is there a Latex2inf?
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Re: OS/2 INF help support

Graeme Geldenhuys-4
Marco van de Voort het geskryf:
>
> That's something that CHM does too, and nearly any format. I'm talking about
> when you press F1 in the IDE and those indexes must be combined in the IDE,

With OS/2's help viewer I can do the following...

  view.exe lcl.inf rtl.inf fcl.inf

It will then combine all three "books" into one at runtime (no speed
loss what-so-ever). Now the Find, Index, Contents etc pages in the help
viewer contains all information from all books. No need for special
compiling them into a single big .inf file.

This was often done under OS/2 to give you a kind-of "virtual" bookshelf.


> I'm not yet entirely convinced what the interesting part of the .INF stuff
> is, what CHM doesn't provide.

Something else OS/2's INF did, and I think Windows .HLP also did. The
application and help viewer can communicate with each-other at runtime.
So you can have something like a tutorial teaching somebody how to use
an application. They click a button on menu option as the help tutorial
described. As soon as the user clicked the appropriate option, the help
window advanced to the next page in the tutorial.

I have never seen this done in CHM help. Is this at all possible still?
This feature was often used under OS/2 and worked like a treat!

As far as I remember bookmarking and printing also worked much better
under OS/2 help than under Windows Help.


Regards,
  - Graeme -

--
fpGUI Toolkit - a cross-platform GUI toolkit using Free Pascal
http://opensoft.homeip.net/fpgui/

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Re: OS/2 INF help support

Tomas Hajny
In reply to this post by Marco van de Voort
On Tue, September 8, 2009 15:07, Marco van de Voort wrote:
> In our previous episode, Graeme Geldenhuys said:
>> Marco van de Voort het geskryf:
 .
 .
>> PS #2:
>> I found the source code for Sibyl IDE which contains a GUI help viewer
>> (NewView) implemented in Object Pascal (I think it's Free Pascal
>> Compiler compatible).
>
> Don't forget licensing issues. Also keep in mind that portable editors and
> generators for HTML are plenty. What about .INF? Is there a Latex2inf?

There is Texinfo2Ipf and HTML2IPF and also probably some others, surely
all with their limitations. Nevertheless, I'm not sure if .INF is more
interesting/better than CHM nowadays (except for the fact that I'm not
aware of a CHM viewer for OS/2, which is an important downside for me
personally, of course ;-) ).

Tomas


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Re: OS/2 INF help support

Marco van de Voort
In our previous episode, Tomas Hajny said:

> >> (NewView) implemented in Object Pascal (I think it's Free Pascal
> >> Compiler compatible).
> >
> > Don't forget licensing issues. Also keep in mind that portable editors and
> > generators for HTML are plenty. What about .INF? Is there a Latex2inf?
>
> There is Texinfo2Ipf and HTML2IPF and also probably some others, surely
> all with their limitations. Nevertheless, I'm not sure if .INF is more
> interesting/better than CHM nowadays (except for the fact that I'm not
> aware of a CHM viewer for OS/2, which is an important downside for me
> personally, of course ;-) ).

Then fix the textmode IDE for OS/2 :-)

Point is the CHM support is quite far atm, and I don't think it makes sense
to add another format. I'm also seriously thinking to cull some of the
legacy formats out of the IDE when the transition is ready.

Maybe with a converter if they must really be supported. (like a TPH2CHM
would be great, since that'd allow BP owners to integrate TV help)
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Re: OS/2 INF help support

Tomas Hajny
In reply to this post by Graeme Geldenhuys-4
On Tue, September 8, 2009 15:04, Graeme Geldenhuys wrote:
> Tomas Hajny het geskryf:
>> I'm not aware of any IPF compiler apart from that one produced by IBM
>> and
>
> Actually Lawrence Haynes, from the Open Watcom project re-engineered a
> clean-room implementation for the Open Watcom project. It is called
> 'wipfc' and source code is available. There now exists native IPF
> Compilers for OS/2, Windows, DOS and Linux.

Nice. I actually had a feeling that it was mentioned for Watcom, so I
quickly checked the OpenWatcom site (in particular the release notes for
individual versions) and couldn't find anything there, so I thought that I
remembered it wrongly. I'm happy to be proven wrong.


>>>From technical point of view, I'd say that INF format capabilities in
>>> the
>> area of graphical layout might be considered outdated nowadays. Whether
>
> Can you explain this in more detail? I remember reading many years back
> an OS/2 e-Zine magazine which contained many images (logos, screenshots
> etc) and it worked fine.

Simple pictures are certainly no problem (although I believe that the INF
format only supports BMP files - no JPG, no GIF or PNG, etc.). However, I
was more referring to more advanced formatting possibilities; yet again,
this may or may not be important depending on your needs and expectations.

Tomas


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Re: OS/2 INF help support

Tomas Hajny
In reply to this post by Marco van de Voort
On Tue, September 8, 2009 17:05, Marco van de Voort wrote:

> In our previous episode, Tomas Hajny said:
>> >> (NewView) implemented in Object Pascal (I think it's Free Pascal
>> >> Compiler compatible).
>> >
>> > Don't forget licensing issues. Also keep in mind that portable editors
>> and
>> > generators for HTML are plenty. What about .INF? Is there a Latex2inf?
>>
>> There is Texinfo2Ipf and HTML2IPF and also probably some others, surely
>> all with their limitations. Nevertheless, I'm not sure if .INF is more
>> interesting/better than CHM nowadays (except for the fact that I'm not
>> aware of a CHM viewer for OS/2, which is an important downside for me
>> personally, of course ;-) ).
>
> Then fix the textmode IDE for OS/2 :-)

Would it start working as a general CHM viewer then (including e.g.
display of embedded pictures in text mode)? ;-)


> Point is the CHM support is quite far atm, and I don't think it makes
> sense
> to add another format. I'm also seriously thinking to cull some of the
> legacy formats out of the IDE when the transition is ready.
 .
 .

Fine, let's discuss this (dropping of formats) on case by case basis. E.g.
OS/2 API documentation is only available in .INF. Dropping .INF
automatically means dropping support for these documents.

Tomas


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Re: OS/2 INF help support

Marco van de Voort
In our previous episode, Tomas Hajny said:
> >> aware of a CHM viewer for OS/2, which is an important downside for me
> >> personally, of course ;-) ).
> >
> > Then fix the textmode IDE for OS/2 :-)
>
> Would it start working as a general CHM viewer then (including e.g.
> display of embedded pictures in text mode)? ;-)

No. Lazarus lview then.

> > Point is the CHM support is quite far atm, and I don't think it makes
> > sense
> > to add another format. I'm also seriously thinking to cull some of the
> > legacy formats out of the IDE when the transition is ready.
>
> Fine, let's discuss this (dropping of formats) on case by case basis. E.g.
> OS/2 API documentation is only available in .INF. Dropping .INF
> automatically means dropping support for these documents.

Not dropping the umpteen formats makes any progress on the helpfile front
hard. The "portable" architecture based on integers doesn't fit well with
formats that base on strings as topic-key. Also disambiguation of keywords
in multi-file aggregates would have specific treatment and tradeoffs for all
formats.

And since the supported formats already have readers, people still
interested in them can make a converter app. Same result, same format
support, but at the expensive of minimal work (converting legacy formats),
the IDE-help can be easier optimized.

Note that this is still a vague notion. It was a bit pain to implement CHM
sometimes (html cuts some corners, specially on inter-file links), but
currently it works. It will depend on how the features just over the horizon
will require changes to the helpsystem.

Most of that stuff is related to combining central indexes, full search, the
caching of those and collecting enough context (_fast) to be able to show a
proper disambiguation dialog when F1 is pressed on a keyword that has
multiple entries.
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Re: OS/2 INF help support

Vincent Snijders-2
Marco van de Voort schreef:
> In our previous episode, Tomas Hajny said:
>>>> aware of a CHM viewer for OS/2, which is an important downside for me
>>>> personally, of course ;-) ).
>>> Then fix the textmode IDE for OS/2 :-)
>> Would it start working as a general CHM viewer then (including e.g.
>> display of embedded pictures in text mode)? ;-)
>
> No. Lazarus lview then.
>

That would be good news, shall I add OS/2 as supported targets in
Lazarus, so you start to port the LCL to OS/2? ;-)

Vincent

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Re: OS/2 INF help support

Marco van de Voort
In our previous episode, Vincent Snijders said:

> Marco van de Voort schreef:
> > In our previous episode, Tomas Hajny said:
> >>>> aware of a CHM viewer for OS/2, which is an important downside for me
> >>>> personally, of course ;-) ).
> >>> Then fix the textmode IDE for OS/2 :-)
> >> Would it start working as a general CHM viewer then (including e.g.
> >> display of embedded pictures in text mode)? ;-)
> >
> > No. Lazarus lview then.
>
> That would be good news, shall I add OS/2 as supported targets in
> Lazarus, so you start to port the LCL to OS/2? ;-)

I include that kind of work in my definition of "fix".

Seriously, how is Project Voyager nowadays?
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Re: OS/2 INF help support

Graeme Geldenhuys-4
In reply to this post by Tomas Hajny
Tomas Hajny het geskryf:
> interesting/better than CHM nowadays (except for the fact that I'm not
> aware of a CHM viewer for OS/2, which is an important downside for me

Doesn't the 'lhelp' project, which is included with Lazarus IDE, compile
under OS/2?  Then again, does Lazarus actually run under OS/2? I have no
idea.


Regards,
  - Graeme -

--
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Re: OS/2 INF help support

Tomas Hajny
On Wed, September 9, 2009 08:35, Graeme Geldenhuys wrote:
> Tomas Hajny het geskryf:
>> interesting/better than CHM nowadays (except for the fact that I'm not
>> aware of a CHM viewer for OS/2, which is an important downside for me
>
> Doesn't the 'lhelp' project, which is included with Lazarus IDE, compile
> under OS/2?  Then again, does Lazarus actually run under OS/2? I have no
> idea.

Probably clear from the previous discussion in the meantime, but anyway -
neither LCL nor Lazarus itself have been ported to OS/2.

Tomas


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Re: OS/2 INF help support

Graeme Geldenhuys-4
In reply to this post by Tomas Hajny
Tomas Hajny het geskryf:
> remembered it wrongly. I'm happy to be proven wrong.

http://owbuilder.malakovi.cz/snapshot/

I downloaded the Linux IPF compiler from here... I don't know how recent
that copy is though.


> Simple pictures are certainly no problem (although I believe that the INF
> format only supports BMP files - no JPG, no GIF or PNG, etc.). However, I
> was more referring to more advanced formatting possibilities; yet again,
> this may or may not be important depending on your needs and expectations.

I do not understand "advanced formatting possibilities"? INF supports
only BMP and MET (meta graphics). INF also supports hyperlinks via text
and graphics. For the graphics you can also support segmented graphic
links -- one image containing various links to different help topics or
other help files etc... Similar thing to HTML's image map support.

http://tinyurl.com/nvjvdz

 or

http://publibfp.boulder.ibm.com/cgi-bin/bookmgr/BOOKS/ej6c2b00/2.3.2.2.3?SHELF=&DT=19941104154554


What I am doing at the moment is reviewing various help formats so I can
implement something that works for fpGUI based applications. I do not
limit myself to the exact feature list of previous help formats. The INF
is a case in point. If I want to support png images in INF, I will add
such support in the viewer and compiler. Obviously, then I will change
the help file extension as no to confuse other users thinking the INF I
use is the same format as the INF used in OS/2.

I'm collecting a feature list for application help. Good compression,
speed, size, easy help authoring etc... Obviously I start off with the
stock help formats and add my personal needs from there - if the stock
help format doesn't support what I want.

Regards,
  - Graeme -

--
fpGUI Toolkit - a cross-platform GUI toolkit using Free Pascal
http://opensoft.homeip.net/fpgui/

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