August 18, 1997
Convert Web sites into Help files you can download or read offline
A new program makes it easy for you to convert just about any Web site into
a Windows 95 Help file. Once the conversion is complete, you can read the
contents of the Web site offline, taking advantage of Help's full keyword
searching tools, topic printing, and other features.
A trial version of the program, WebTwin, is available at
http://www.webtwin.com. When you download the file, you are asked for your
name and e-mail address. An activation key that is immediately sent to you
via e-mail allows you to use the program free of charge for 30 days. The
registered version costs $50.
Save the downloaded file in a temporary folder, then run it once to launch
the setup process. Once this is done, simply type in the URL of a Web site,
click Start, and walk away.
I've always found the Windows 95 Help format to be a convenient way to
store information. For example, you can search a Help file for any word or
(if you enable maximum search capabilities) combinations or parts of words.
WebTwin brings this kind of convenience to Internet sites. Most of us know
of sites that we return to again and again to look up one fact or another.
WebTwin allows you to capture a snapshot of that site so you can examine
the information without logging on to the Internet at all.
WebTwin supports controls that govern the depth of a URL download or the
time elapsed in minutes. You can, for instance, limit a download to only
the top level of a Web site and one directory level down (or 60 minutes,
whichever comes first).
You can also eliminate the downloading of graphics files if the value of
the information you wish to download is primarily in the text, not the
pictures. If you choose to download graphics, WebTwin supports .JPEG and
.GIF files, which are converted to .BMP files for inclusion in Help format.
WebTwin respects Robots.txt, a text file found on many Web sites that
directs automated search engines away from meaningless data, such as binary
files that make no sense to download. (For more information, see
WebTwin automatically runs Microsoft's Help Compiler when the information
downloaded from a Web site is complete. In addition, you will also need a
copy of Microsoft's Help Compiler Workshop (Hcw.exe), which is bundled with
Microsoft Visual C++ and other Microsoft tools.
Jimmy Hoeks of Object Mastery, the Australian company that authored
WebTwin, cautions against downloading massive Web sites, such as
http://www.microsoft.com (which hosts many thousands of pages). Start with
smaller Web sites that are limited to a few specific subjects.
Downloading an entire Web site may cause copyright concerns. You should be
protected under the fair-use exception for copyright if you download the
content of a Web site purely for your own reading. Selling a Help file that
duplicates a Web site, however, or bundling such a Help file with a
commercial product would not be covered under the umbrella of copyright
WebTwin 1.0 could use more automated features, such as the ability to
search multiple sites on a regular basis. Another limiting factor is that
complex tables, frames, and forms do not translate well into Help format.
But if you're interested in keeping up primarily with a few simple sites,
WebTwin could be for you.
--- Rohit Khare /// MCI Internet Architecture (BOS) /// firstname.lastname@example.org Voice+Pager: (617) 960-5131 VNet: 370-5131 Fax: (617) 960-1009