Create a File from MSDN Content

I recently discovered that there’s a tool that allows you to create a help file (either .chm or .hxs) from content on MSDN and TechNet. It’s called Package This and is available on CodePlex. This is great if you want to download a bunch of information to review offline, say at a customer site or on a plane.

If you don’t know about CodePlex, it’s our open source hosting web site. It’s publicly available and you can download the source for all the projects hosted there.

When you download the Package This executable (I created a new folder called \Program Files\Package This and put it there) and run it, you’ll see the MSDN tree – or the table of contents (TOC) as we call it. You can toggle between MSDN and TechNet by using the Library menu item.


Package This Screen Shot

In the TOC, select the topics that you want to include in the file, and they appear in the list on the right-hand side. After you select what you want in the help file, just click File > Export to Hxs File or File > Export to Chm file.

On the up side, the utility does allow you to select a node and all of its children. Depending on how many children a node has, the select process can take a while.

On the down side, it doesn’t allow you to combine content from both MSDN and TechNet in a single file which is unfortunate. However, you could work around this problem by creating two help files (.chms) and compiling them in a collection. You can use the HTML Help compiler to do this.