Output file size (CHM)

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Output file size (CHM)

Postby MC Hammer on Mon Feb 09, 2009 7:44 am

Hello
We have migrated to Flare from RH 5 and have noticed that the compiled CHMs (our output is HTML Help) are considerably larger when built in Flare than when they are built using RH. Is there any way in Flare (or even outside Flare) of increasing CHM compression so that final size is not as large and global resolution of screenshots/pictures is not too low?
Thank you.
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Re: Output file size (CHM)

Postby Pete Lees on Mon Feb 09, 2009 9:19 am

Hi, Marie Claire,

I don't know what is achievable within Flare, but you can usually compact a .chm file by a further 10% or more by recompiling it with KeyTools, which is available from here:

http://www.keyworks.net/keytools.htm

This is what KeyTools' help file says about the recompile feature:

The compression that HTML Help provides for .chm or .its files is quite good. However, KeyTools can increase the compression rate and decrease the size of your help system and create even smaller files.

You don't need to recompile every help system you create. If all you're gaining is a few bytes, then the possible risk of using a recompiled help system may be higher than is justified.

Important: We've taken every precaution in testing the recompile feature. Nevertheless, be sure to test on as many computers as possible before distributing a recompiled system.


KeyTools was developed by Ralph Walden, formerly Microsoft's chief developer of both WinHelp and HTML Help, so it comes from a very good source. In my experience, the recompile feature is quite safe to use.

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Re: Output file size (CHM)

Postby MikeKatz on Mon Feb 09, 2009 12:23 pm

I switched a few years ago from RH to Flare, and there was no appreciable difference in the file size of both large and small projects.
I would guess the issue is with screen shots, although I wouldn't know where to look.
One way to find the issue is to make a small project with one topic and screen shot in RH, convert it, and then make the identical project from scratch in Flare. Compare the CHM sizes and see if it's the conversion process (the stand-alone Flare CHM is smaller), or Flare itself (the converted and stand-alone CHMs are the same size and larger than the RH CHM). At least this way you'll know where to look.
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Re: Output file size (CHM)

Postby Andrew on Mon Feb 09, 2009 12:25 pm

MC Hammer wrote:Hello
We have migrated to Flare from RH 5 and have noticed that the compiled CHMs (our output is HTML Help) are considerably larger when built in Flare than when they are built using RH. Is there any way in Flare (or even outside Flare) of increasing CHM compression so that final size is not as large and global resolution of screenshots/pictures is not too low?
Thank you.

In your target, under Advanced, do you have "Generate resized copies of scaled images" enabled? I've noticed that can have an effect on image size.
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Re: Output file size (CHM)

Postby MC Hammer on Wed Feb 11, 2009 1:53 am

Hi Pete, MikeKatz and Andrew,
Thank you for your replies.
I will investigate the recompiling function in Key Tools, but a gain of 10% does not seem worth it :oops: .
Yes, I have the "Generate resized copies of scaled images" option enabled but it is only available from Flare v4. I am currently using Flare 3.1 and evaluating version 4.

When we migrated our projects to Flare from RH, we found out that the size of the CHMs built in Flare had more than doubled compared to the CHMs built in RH (and this is pretty much after migration, and a little bit of tidying up in Flare).

I have not investigated what could cause the size of a CHM to be so large if built in Flare, compared to RH. I was hoping that someone browsing this forum would know :lol: . Our projects are quite large, we have a lot of screenshots, a large number of topics, and use snippets, master pages togglers, expanding text, drop down text, conditions, etc. Does someone know if there is an option in Flare that would allow me to increase file compression?
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Re: Output file size (CHM)

Postby RamonS on Wed Feb 11, 2009 6:35 am

You can always use the .hhp file that Flare creates and recompile that after tweaking the settings in HTML Help Workshop. I do not know if you can set compression there, but in the end Flare does not create CHMs natively. Flare creates an HTML Help Workshop project that then gets compiled by Microsoft's proprietary CHM compiler. Sure, would be nice if Flare exposed more of the compiler options, but the question is if those options can be passed to the compiler via CLI. That may not be possible and explain the subset of all options offered in Flare.
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Re: Output file size (CHM)

Postby Andrew on Wed Feb 11, 2009 6:57 am

I'm just curious: does the file size problem persist in v4 in your testing?

I have a formerly RHx5 project (about 6000 topics) that I now edit in Flare. The size of the CHM files are comparable (both around the 5MB range), but I use only a dozen small graphics in the entire thing.
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Re: Output file size (CHM)

Postby MikeKatz on Wed Feb 11, 2009 7:03 am

Andrew wrote:I'm just curious: does the file size problem persist in v4 in your testing?

I have a formerly RHx5 project (about 6000 topics) that I now edit in Flare. The size of the CHM files are comparable (both around the 5MB range), but I use only a dozen small graphics in the entire thing.


My converted projects had hundreds of screen shots, and the sizes were almost identical.
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Re: Output file size (CHM)

Postby Pete Lees on Wed Feb 11, 2009 7:24 am

Hi,

RamonS wrote:You can always use the .hhp file that Flare creates and recompile that after tweaking the settings in HTML Help Workshop. I do not know if you can set compression there, but in the end Flare does not create CHMs natively. Flare creates an HTML Help Workshop project that then gets compiled by Microsoft's proprietary CHM compiler. Sure, would be nice if Flare exposed more of the compiler options, but the question is if those options can be passed to the compiler via CLI. That may not be possible and explain the subset of all options offered in Flare.


In this regard, Flare is exacty the same as HTML Help Workshop and any other HTML Help authoring tool. The compression level in HTML Help files isn't customizable at all. This is another of those examples in which functionality that was available in the old WinHelp (.hlp) format was dropped from HTML Help.

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Re: Output file size (CHM)

Postby MC Hammer on Wed Feb 11, 2009 8:30 am

Hi there
Thanks for your replies, guys. I thought that in Flare, we might have been able to control the amount of compression but from what you are saying it is not feasible (I just do not know enough about the back end ~ Microsoft proprietary CHM compiler).

To answer some questions, the CHM sizes are similar in Flare v3.1 and Flare v4.0, i.e. twice (or more) the size of the same projects built using RH (I won't be able to compare for much longer as we have been adding large numbers of topics and screenshots since we migrated). One thing though, if you optimise Flare v4 (by disabling all sorts of things, mainly to do with Analyzer and IntelliSense, as per some posts on the forum), I found out that compiling in Flare v4 is 2 to 4 times quicker than compiling in Flare v3.1, and that I could use a command line build batch file without getting an out of memony error (which I systematically get for Flare v3.1. at the same time everytime).

My CHMs used to be approx. between 7 and 11 Mb with RH and now they are around 20-23 Mb, so I have had questions from some Sales guys and customers, hence me posting this query here.

Thanks again!
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Re: Output file size (CHM)

Postby MikeKatz on Wed Feb 11, 2009 8:41 am

MC Hammer wrote:Hi there
Thanks for your replies, guys. I thought that in Flare, we might have been able to control the amount of compression but from what you are saying it is not feasible (I just do not know enough about the back end ~ Microsoft proprietary CHM compiler).

To answer some questions, the CHM sizes are similar in Flare v3.1 and Flare v4.0, i.e. twice (or more) the size of the same projects built using RH (I won't be able to compare for much longer as we have been adding large numbers of topics and screenshots since we migrated). One thing though, if you optimise Flare v4 (by disabling all sorts of things, mainly to do with Analyzer and IntelliSense, as per some posts on the forum), I found out that compiling in Flare v4 is 2 to 4 times quicker than compiling in Flare v3.1, and that I could use a command line build batch file without getting an out of memony error (which I systematically get for Flare v3.1).

My CHMs used to be approx. between 7 and 11 Mb with RH and now they are around 20-22 Mb, so I have had questions from some Sales guys and customers, hence me posting this query here.

Thanks again!


My projects were also around 10-14 MB, and they differed only by a few k. Compile times in Flare are longer, as you say.
I really think the culprit is the image files themselves. What format are they in? When I worked in RH, I created the screens shots via Paint Shop Pro, including resizing, and then I pasted them directly into the RH topics. If you saved them yourself to a file first, it's possible that Flare is using a too large version of the graphic.
Here's one thing to look at - look at the total size of all the screen shots in the Flare folder. If it's larger than the RH CHM size this is where the issue definitely is.
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Re: Output file size (CHM)

Postby GregStenhouse on Sun Feb 15, 2009 1:53 pm

Try decompiling the CHM (using HTML Help workshop or FAR help). Then use a small utility called DiskFrontier to graphically represent the folder that you have decompiled to. That should give you an idea where the size is coming from.
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Re: Output file size (CHM)

Postby MC Hammer on Tue Feb 17, 2009 1:21 am

Hi Mike and Greg
Thanks for your suggestions. I am convinced it is to do with the images/screenshots...
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Re: Output file size (CHM)

Postby Dave Lee on Thu Feb 19, 2009 4:28 am

Do you keep any files in the Content folders that you don't actually use in the output?
e.g. old images or different formats of images that you don't use.

Flare will include everything in your Content folders, all files are included even if they aren't referenced or linked to from the topics or stylesheet.
This happens now and again in our projects, people can 'leave' files in the project (e.g. large BMP files, visio diagrams, word docs, etc) without realising they'll be included in the output.

Looking inside a CHM is a bit tricky (without a tool to do so), but if you build your project as WebHelp then you can browse through the output and see what's included. Flare's reports can also give you a list of unused files.
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Re: Output file size (CHM)

Postby MikeKatz on Thu Feb 19, 2009 6:37 am

Dave Lee wrote:Do you keep any files in the Content folders that you don't actually use in the output?
e.g. old images or different formats of images that you don't use.

Flare will include everything in your Content folders, all files are included even if they aren't referenced or linked to from the topics or stylesheet.
This happens now and again in our projects, people can 'leave' files in the project (e.g. large BMP files, visio diagrams, word docs, etc) without realising they'll be included in the output.

Looking inside a CHM is a bit tricky (without a tool to do so), but if you build your project as WebHelp then you can browse through the output and see what's included. Flare's reports can also give you a list of unused files.


Thanks Dave, I didn't know that!
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