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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Re: Output file size (CHM)

Postby LTinker68 on Thu Feb 19, 2009 9:23 am

To add to Dave's comments, you don't need to remove those unused images if you'd rather keep them in the project for reference or future modification. Just put them in a sub-folder in the images folder, then apply an exclude condition to that folder.
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Re: Output file size (CHM)

Postby MC Hammer on Fri Feb 20, 2009 7:12 am

Hi Dave and Lisa
Wow, I produce HTML Help and did not know either that everything under the Content folder was being included in the output...I know fully understand why my CHMs are huge (I keep images, original PNGs, flowcharts and videos inside Content, even if I do not use them).
Lisa's tip is a good idea.
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Re: Output file size (CHM)

Postby Dave Lee on Fri Feb 20, 2009 7:28 am

Yep, it's easily done.
Thankfully the chances of your users stumbling across these hidden extras is quite small, especially in a CHM. It's more of a problem if you leave unused topics in the help, as you can find these from the search or index.
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Re: Output file size (CHM)

Postby DurtyMat on Fri Apr 03, 2009 10:26 am

For an easy way to find what files you arent using, you can do this little work around that I pulled off when I was having CHM file size issues:

1. Backup your project, the project zip function from the File menu is a great option.
2. Create a new flare project and name it something along the same lines as your troublesome project (Diet, Lite, and SnackPak edition all work :D)
3. Create a flare import file from the main menu (think it is under project > create import file)
4. Select .fltoc files as the file type to import and the import linked files checkbox
5. Start the import process, select the files you want to import etc, for more information on how importing files work, check the help system
6 Import the selected files, and BAM! you have a liter edition of your project without all the unlinked/unused files

now, if you want to bring all the content that you now know you arent using into your project, just bring them in to the a folder through windows explorer and condition the MISC STUFF folder like List was saying.

if this is a terrible idea, i hope someone tells me :D

PS - i dropped close to 20 mbs when i did this, so beat that subway diet
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Re: Output file size (CHM)

Postby Madcap Guru on Fri Apr 03, 2009 10:58 am

If you have Analyzer you can run a report on unused files, that can tell you also what you are not using.
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Re: Output file size (CHM)

Postby Ryan Cerniglia on Fri Apr 03, 2009 10:58 am

DurtyMat wrote:For an easy way to find what files you arent using, you can do this little work around that I pulled off when I was having CHM file size issues:

1. Backup your project, the project zip function from the File menu is a great option.
2. Create a new flare project and name it something along the same lines as your troublesome project (Diet, Lite, and SnackPak edition all work :D)
3. Create a flare import file from the main menu (think it is under project > create import file)
4. Select .fltoc files as the file type to import and the import linked files checkbox
5. Start the import process, select the files you want to import etc, for more information on how importing files work, check the help system
6 Import the selected files, and BAM! you have a liter edition of your project without all the unlinked/unused files

now, if you want to bring all the content that you now know you arent using into your project, just bring them in to the a folder through windows explorer and condition the MISC STUFF folder like List was saying.

if this is a terrible idea, i hope someone tells me :D

PS - i dropped close to 20 mbs when i did this, so beat that subway diet



That's a fairly decent method if you're willing to create a new project, but another method would be to go into the project, open the View menu, select "Project Analysis", and then change the drop-down menu in Project Analysis to "Topics not in Selected TOC". This gives you a listing of files that aren't included in the TOC so you can make the decision topic-by-topic, instead of all at once. Additionally, you can go to the Project menu and select Add Report File to create a list of All Unused Items in your project.


With these two steps combined you can take out a large number of files in your project without losing any topics that you simply haven't included yet.
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Re: Output file size (CHM)

Postby DurtyMat on Fri Apr 03, 2009 11:21 am

good call, if only Ryan could respond to my post about using headings and mini-tocs to create segue pages with link descriptions (shameless self plug) /cough link:http://forums.madcapsoftware.com/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=8710 /cough


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Re: Output file size (CHM)

Postby LTinker68 on Fri Apr 03, 2009 12:21 pm

He did respond with a workaround you could use.
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Re: Output file size (CHM)

Postby DurtyMat on Fri Apr 03, 2009 12:31 pm

i saw and i am super excited to try ... now to stop stealing the light from this post ....

/me returns back to the stylesheet forum
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Re: Output file size (CHM)

Postby MC Hammer on Mon Apr 06, 2009 5:00 am

Madcap Guru wrote:If you have Analyzer you can run a report on unused files, that can tell you also what you are not using.

You mean Analyzer as the standalone product, not the "analyzer-lite" functionality available from within Flare?
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