Help With A Help File That Won’t Open

After months of messing about wondering why I couldn’t access any of my help files in Windows XP, and never finding an explanation and solution online that didn’t involve smearing myself with axle grease and climbing into my computer, I stumbled on this tool (via PC Answers of the UK): Helpware Downloads’ MJ’s Diagonostics which

is a small utility that reports if all the HTML Help runtime DLLs are installed and registered correctly. If a DLL is not registered then it will ask if you want to register it. It also checks the RoboHelp DLL (HHActiveX.dll) and MS Help 2 DLLs.

In English, this means if you get messages like this:

Cannot open the file: mk:@MSITStore:C:Program FilesEverNoteEverNoteEverNote.chm

or your help file just won’t open, try running MJ’s small, free utility first. It’s simple, elegant, and it gets the job done. As the report file explains

A common problem with HTML Help 1.x is DLLs not correctly registered during installation. This utility checks all components and registers DLLs if required. We also report if the RoboHelp DLL is registered, and if MS Help 2 components are installed and registered.

In other words, the help file, which has a CHM extension, hasn’t properly checked in with the Windows registry. This was certainly the problem in my case, and the utility fixes it without fanfare. There are other aspects of the problem, and if this solution doesn’t work, check out Nic Cubrilovic’s suggestion, and the many comments that follow his post. I don’t know who MJ is by the Helpware Group, which hosts the file, is well worth checking out. Thanks!

Why doesn’t Microsoft award honorary knighthoods to these kind of helpful, selfless people? Without them, would Windows even run?

Microsoft’s IE About Turn

Microsoft, apparently reacting to the rise of Firefox and criticism over security, has reversed engine and said the next Internet Explorer update would come before the next version of Windows, according to CNET:

Reversing a longstanding Microsoft policy, Bill Gates said Tuesday that the company will ship an update to its browser separately from the next version of Windows.

A beta, or test, version of Internet Explorer 7 will debut this summer, Microsoft’s chairman and chief software architect said in a keynote address at the RSA Conference 2005 here. The company had said that it would not ship a new IE version before the next major update to Windows, code-named Longhorn, arrives next year.

More on the official IEBlog.

Of course, it’s not just about security. CNET points to complaints about the fact the last version was only available to those who already had XP or had paid for an operating system upgrade, while others have complained about IE’s lack of adherence to web standards such as CSS, PNG, XHTML and XML. To that I’d the tendency to develop pages, either on the Net or within Office, that can only be viewed with IE.

As one poster to the (rather pompous and PR-spun) blog posting announcing the upgrade put it:

But how long do you have to hear people scream and scream and scream that they need and want an updated IE? You play it as if you guys are doing your customers a favor! Get real! You’re only doing it because [Firefox] is gaining popularity.

Stick to standards and don’t add any MS proprietary bs to it and I’m sure you’ll win back a lot of the fans you’ve lost.

(For a glimpse of the legitimate concerns, as well as the rather, er, strong emotions elicited by the topic of browsers, the dozens of comments that follow the blog posting are worth a read. Reading them you can’t help feeling a bit sorry for the IE developers who post to the blog; it must be demoralizing to get as many flames as compliments. And I wonder how many more were deleted for language. )

And while we’re on the subject, what I’d like to see next are companies — particularly those in banking and public databases — ensure their sites are compatible with non-IE browsers. It’s shoddy, lazy, and poor business practice to exclude users based on what browser they’re using. Perhaps we should be building a directory of those websites that don’t support all W3C–compliant browsers?