Fixing Issues with HTML Help Workshop

I am working on an application that ships with documentation in the form of a Windows Compiled Help file. To build the help file I use Sandcastle and the excellent Sandcastle Help File Builder. Building the help file is part of a continuous integration plan so the help file is always up to date.

To make it easy to setup the tools necessary to build the help files on a developer's machine or on a build server, I store all relevant applications under a folder such as D:\Buildserver\Tools. This folder contains applications like Sandcastle, SHFB, and the HTML Help Workshop which contains the compiler for the help file. I install the applications using the supplied installer first, then copy the files into this Buildserver folder. All these applications are source controlled so setting up a new development or CI machine is a matter of getting a "latest version" from source control. Or so I thought.

Today I was installing Sandcastle and the necessary tools on a brand new machine. Setting up Sandcastle and SHFB went smoothly, but I ran into problems when SHFB tried to access the HTML Help Workshop. No matter what I tried, I kept getting the error: The program can't start because HHA.dll is missing from your computer. Try reinstalling the program to fix this problem.

The program can't start because HHA.dll is missing from your computer. Try reinstalling the program to fix this problem.

Google didn't bring up any results for this error, so I was getting worried about my chances on fixing this error.

Then I realized that the solution was staring me in the face: I hadn't really installed the HTML Help Workshop, but merely used a local copy of the files under my Buildserver folder. So, maybe the setup installs other files than those under the main Program Files folder that I used for my build tools? A quick reinstallation of the HTML Help Workshop provided the answer: yes it does. Once I reinstalled the Help Workshop, everything worked fine, including running the Workshop tools from my Buildserver folder. Funny thing is: my system still doesn't seem to contain the HHA.dll file. Weird also that it ran fine on other machines used for the build, but maybe they simply had the HTML Help Workshop already installed.

I am merely blogging about this as a reminder to myself the next time I am setting up a new, clean build machine, but maybe it helps somebody else with a similar problem as well.


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