Last updated: 18 October 2002.

Hi HelpIndex Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

This page is a list of Frequently Asked Questions about the PHD Hi HelpIndex applet. Hi HelpIndex can be found at

The questions covers Hi HelpIndex basics, support issues and a trouble shooting guide. Please email Hi HelpIndex support if you have a question which is not answered here.

Page Contents The most Frequent FAQs  Basics 1  Basics 2  Hi HelpIndex Usage  How to put Hi HelpIndex on your page  Hi Lab  MakeHelpIndex  Help Index File  Language Files  Advanced Issues  Errors you might get 
See also Getting Started Guide 

The most Frequent FAQs

Hi HelpIndex doesn't run. What's going wrong?

Basics 1

What does Hi HelpIndex do?

Hi HelpIndex provides a contents tree and keyword search facility for a web site, CD-ROMs or as the help system for other programs.

Hi HelpIndex is currently available as a Java applet; an ActiveX control may be produced. Help index files may be built using the Hi Lab Windows editor or the platform-independent MakeHelpIndex.

Like other help systems, there is a Contents tree of the pages on a site. In the Index you can type in the first few letters of the word you are looking for; any matching keywords are displayed. Select the Display Page button to show the page in the target frame.
Different language and contents/index sets can be chosen in the Select tab.
Hi HelpIndex may either run within a web page or as a floating window above the browser.

Hi HelpIndex is browser and server independent as it uses static help index files. It is ideal for use on a CD-ROM.

Most people will use Hi Lab to create their help index files. You can scan existing web pages and edit the Contents and Index. Hi Lab is a Windows 95, 98, Me, NT4, 2000 and XP program

Alternatively, the MakeHelpIndex Java application may be used to build the help index files.

Hi HelpIndex is better than a server based text search as you can configure the contents and keywords precisely. It can be easier and cheaper than setting up such a server based search.

You may evaluate the capacity-limited version 2.1.0 for 30 days.

Full Hi HelpIndex documentation and examples of its use can be found at:
Any queries about Hi HelpIndex should be directed to Chris Cant.

Why should I use Hi HelpIndex?

Hi HelpIndex lets users find the pages on your site easily. They simply look through the contents, or type in the word that they want to look up.

With some imagination, you can use Hi HelpIndex for other purposes, eg a user database.

Don't server text searches do the same as Hi HelpIndex's Index?

They do a similar job, but Hi HelpIndex is much better...

A text search indiscriminately finds any word wherever it appears in any page on the server. For example doing a text search for Java at the PHD site, brought up over 200 references, listing each web page, starting with those with the highest number of hits.

In contrast, using Hi HelpIndex should be easier and give better results. Simply typing in J in the index shows a list of all the keywords beginning with J. If Java is there, a user can select it right away. More importantly, the index list will show the list of indexes which are definitely there. On the PHD site, typing Java found these keywords:

So a user's search for Java can be more targeted, they will see what is definitely there, and be able to pin-point the page they are interested in more quickly.

Another benefit of Hi HelpIndex is that server searches can be complicated or costly to set up with your web space service provider. If you need a new CGI script, then this will have to be vetted to see if it is a security risk. Hi HelpIndex is server and browser independent Java program, and so poses no security risk to either the user or your server.

What is a typical usage of Hi HelpIndex?

Most people will use Hi HelpIndex to provide an logical view of their site. This allows users to search their site quickly for the information they want.

Typically would set up Hi HelpIndex to run as a search form on a page, perhaps as a contents frame in a frameset. Or you can run Hi HelpIndex as a small icon; if the user clicks on the icon, a "floating" Hi HelpIndex window appears above the browser.

You can have more than index for a site, eg in different languages.

Is there a security risk?

No. Hi HelpIndex is server and browser independent Java program, and so poses no security risk to either the user or your server.

What browser do I need?

Any browser that supports Java will do. Make sure that Java is enabled.

On a Windows 95/98/Me/NT/2000/XP PC, Netscape Navigator 3, 4, 6 and 7 and Microsoft Internet Explorer 3, 4, 5 and 6 will work. Hi HelpIndex will run in just 8MB, but 16MB is recommended.

Where can I get it?

From PHD's Hi HelpIndex web site: Follow the link to the "Downloading" page. Instructions are given here on how to download the evaluation Hi HelpIndex development kit.

The version that you download has capacity limits. Your index file cannot have more than 100 URLs and 500 keywords. The full version has no limits.

You have 30 days to try Hi HelpIndex before you must pay for a full licence or delete all the software from your systems.

What does it cost?

A full standard Hi HelpIndex licence currently costs £50 per site. See our purchasing instructions for details.

Must I purchase a full licence?

Yes please, once your 30 day free evaluation trial is up.

What do I get when I pay for a full licence?

The main benefit is that you get a licence to run Hi HelpIndex. And you get support and upgrades for 12 months.

The full version has no capacity limits.

How many sites does a full licence cover?

Just one, although you can keep a local working copy of the site and a further backup copy.

Can I put Hi HelpIndex on a CD-ROM?

Yes, Hi HelpIndex will work from a CD-ROM. However you will need to pay for a Hi HelpIndex Developer Version licence for use on a CD-ROM. You will also need this licence wherever you use Hi HelpIndex as a part of your product.

What improvements do you plan?

We have lots of ideas. Please see our list of possible improvements.

Basics 2

How does Hi HelpIndex work?

When a user visits your site's Hi HelpIndex page, the relevant Java classes are loaded temporarily to their computer.

Hi HelpIndex then reads your "help index file" from your server. It then lets displays the Contents, etc for you to use.

Note very carefully that Hi HelpIndex does not generate its index file for your site automatically. You must create it. The companion Windows program Hi Lab or Java application MakeHelpIndex can be used to make a help index file from your existing web pages. You must keep the index file up to date if you change your pages.

How do I make the help index file?

The help index file lists the pages on your site and the keywords which a user can type to search for those pages.

Most people will use the Windows program Hi Lab to make and edit their index files. This will scan some existing web pages to build an initial help index file for you.

The Java application MakeHelpIndex could also be used, or even make it "by hand" using an ordinary text editor.

How is the help index file kept up to date?

The help index file is not kept up to date automatically.

You must update it yourself, and remember to load it onto your server.

What's icon mode? What's a floating window?

"Icon mode" is where Hi HelpIndex starts up on a user's screen as a small icon, usually the "double question marks" logo shown here.

When the user clicks the icon, a new "floating window" appears above the browser with the search form. You can move it around. Clicking the browser may hide the floating window, but it can still be selected again

You must specify icon mode when you call Hi HelpIndex by setting the mode parameter to "icon".

What's applet mode?

Applet mode is where Hi HelpIndex appears on a web page (rather than in a floating window).

Hi HelpIndex is in applet mode by default, but you can set it explicitly by setting the mode parameter to "applet".

What are the high and wide modes?

The default mode is "high", where the search form is higher than it is wide. In "wide" mode, the index prompts are beside the fields, making the applet shorter and wide. Version 1 defaults to "wide" mode.

Here's an example of "high mode".

Add either "high" or "wide" to the mode parameter, eg "applet high" or "icon wide".

What server do I need to run Hi HelpIndex?

Any server will do, as far as we know.

Can I run Hi HelpIndex locally without a server?

Yes, just open the web page with it in as a local file.

Hi HelpIndex will run from a CD-ROM, but please refer to the Developer CD-ROM instructions.

What platform does Hi HelpIndex run on?

It will run on any platform that has a browser that can run Java applets.

For Windows 95/98/Me/NT/2000/XP PCs, most people use either Netscape Navigator 3.0 or later or Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 or later

Hi HelpIndex should run in other browsers on other platforms, but we have not checked this. There are some minor problems when running from an Apple Macintosh.

To run MakeHelpIndex your computer must have a Java Virtual Machine. This is not provided by a browser. You must download the latest Java Development Kit from Sun and install it. See our Getting Started Guide.

How have you tested Hi HelpIndex?

Mainly by exhaustively using it ourselves.

However, we have only tested it under Windows with Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer.

Who owns Hi HelpIndex?

PHD Computer Consultants Ltd.

By paying you get a licence to use Hi HelpIndex.

Can I get a source code license?

Sorry, but no.

Hi HelpIndex Usage

How do people use Hi HelpIndex?

People who visit your web site with a Java-enabled browser will see Hi HelpIndex when they go to the page where you have put it. They will either see an icon to click or the applet directly.

Once the help index is file loaded, a user can now look through the Contents tree or select the Index and type in a query. See the examples for further instructions.

How long will it take to download?

The standard Hi HelpIndex classes are about 97kB long. However, Internet Explorer users will have a smaller 43kB download. A loading message and Hi HelpIndex icon is displayed as the classes and index file load.

At the very least, these classes will take a few seconds to download, but if you are calling from far away or the lines are congested then it may take some time.

How to put Hi HelpIndex on your web page

OK, how do I put Hi HelpIndex on my web page?

Och... just read our Getting Started instructions.

The easiest way to get started is just to run the Hi Lab Windows program.

What HTML should I use?

Hi Lab will write your first web page. Use Test+New web page.

If not using Hi Lab, please read our instructions.

How do I use icon mode?

Use the following HTML:

<APPLET code=HelpIndex archive="hi210.jar" width=70 height=80>
	<PARAM NAME=index VALUE=siteindex.hi>
	<PARAM NAME=mode VALUE="icon wide">
	Sorry, you need a browser that runs Java to see the Help Index.

Note that the applet has the dimensions of the hi.gif image, ie 70x80, and the mode parameter is set to "icon wide".

How I use applet mode?

Use the following HTML:

<APPLET code=HelpIndex archive="hi210.jar" width=450 height=250>
	<PARAM NAME=index1 VALUE=siteindex.hi>
	<PARAM NAME=mode VALUE="applet wide">
	Sorry, you need a browser that runs Java to see the Help Index.

Note that the applet is big enough for the "wide" version of the search form.

How do I make the help index file?

The simplest way is to run Hi Lab as described in our Getting Started instructions.

You can build a help index file using MakeHelpIndex (or even by hand). However you may wish to tweak the index file that MakeHelpIndex produced.

If your web site changes significantly, remember to update your help index file.

How do I keep my index file up to date?

If your web site changes significantly, remember to update your help index file. The simplest technique is to ask Hi Lab to scan your site's files again. However, you will lose any edits that you have made to the index file, so you may prefer just to edit the index file in Hi Lab.

What files do I upload to the server?

If you have the Windows version of the development, just copy all the files in the Redist directory (eg C:\Program Files\Hi\Redist\*.*) along with your index and language file(s)

Check that you have these files on your server:

When you upload files to your server, remember to preserve the case of the file names, eg use file name HelpIndex.class, not helpindex.class. Most modern utility programs preserve case automatically. However, some old versions of WS_FTP for example, did not preserve case.

Does the index only reference my site?

Your index file can reference any web page. For example, the JDK example on PHD's site will display pages on Sun's JavaSoft server.

Can I use Hi HelpIndex on my Intranet?

Yes. No special server is needed. And Hi HelpIndex can run without a server, ie you can use the browser to open the Hi HelpIndex pages.

How do I use Hi HelpIndex in frames?

The main technique is to specify the target frame name, ie which frame is used when Display Page is pressed.

You can specify a default target using the target applet parameter. Or specify a target frame in various places in Hi Lab.

The default target frame is _self, ie the selected page replaces the Hi HelpIndex page. _parent specifies the parent frame, _top the top-most frame and _blank a new blank window. Other target names can be given; these should match the names in your frameset.

Here are some suggestions for how to use Hi HelpIndex in frame sets.

How do I display a page in a new browser window?

As explained above, you can set the applet target parameter or the Target field in the relevant Index Item record in the help index file.

How do I make the list boxes wider?

If in applet mode, simply make the APPLET WIDTH bigger.

In icon mode, there is no way of changing the initial size of the floating window, but the user can make it wider simply by resizing the window.

I've changed my help index file, but Hi HelpIndex is still using the old version. What's going wrong?

Have you uploaded the new index file to your server?

Or, your browser may be caching the old version, ie keeping the old version in memory and not bothering to check to see if it has changed. The simplest solution is simply to quit your browser and restart it.

A more drastic solution is to disable caching in your browser, but this will seriously degrade your other web browsing.

This also applies if you change the icon GIF file, or indeed if you change the class files. So if you have just got a later version of Hi HelpIndex you must stop and restart to use the new version.

Hi Lab

What's Hi Lab?

Hi Lab is the Windows visual design tool to help you set up Hi HelpIndex for your site.

It will scan any existing web pages to make an "index file": the data file that Hi HelpIndex needs for each site.

Hi Lab will also build a sample web page for you and copy the necessary Java files across. You can test web pages immediately, from within Hi Lab.

Hi Lab can also create and edit Language files.

Hi Lab's own context-sensitive help is in HTML form and it uses Hi HelpIndex to provide its Contents and Index. Purchasers of a Developer licence will be able to make applications like this.

Where do I get it? What does it cost?

Hi Lab is a part of the standard Windows Hi HelpIndex development kit. You must pay for a full Hi HelpIndex licence to continue using Hi Lab after 30 days.

You may only use Hi Lab on one computer for each licence bought.

What do I need to run Hi Lab?

Hi Lab runs on a basic 8MB Windows 95/98/Me or 16MB Windows NT/2000/XP computer, but 32MB+ is recommended.

You should have Internet Explorer 3 loaded if you want to run the Test web page dialog or view the HTML based help text.

You will need more than 16MB to view Hi HelpIndex running in these pages.


What's MakeHelpIndex?

MakeHelpIndex is a program which you can use to build a help index file from your existing web pages. [ Note that most people will use the Windows tool Hi Lab instead. ]

So it goes through all your web pages automatically and builds an index file from the page titles and anchor names.

Remember that if your web site changes significantly, then you will need to run MakeHelpIndex again to keep the help index up to date.

MakeHelpIndex is a Java application. This means that it does not run from a web page with a browser. You need a Java Virtual Machine on your computer. Read our MakeHelpindex Getting Started instructions for details of how to get one of these beasts.

Where do I get it? What does it cost?

MakeHelpIndex is a part of the standard Hi HelpIndex development kits. You must pay for a full Hi HelpIndex licence to continue using MakeHelpIndex after 30 days.

There are no capacity limits in the evaluation MakeHelpIndex. MakeHelpIndex will warn you if the generated index file will exceed the evaluation Hi HelpIndex capacity limits.

What do I need to run it?

You need a Java Virtual Machine (JVM) on your computer. This is not provided by web browsers. New operating systems may include a JVM as standard.

The usual way to get a JVM is to download and install Sun JavaSoft's Java Development Kit (JDK). Make sure that you select the right version for your operating system. MakeHelpIndex works with both JDK 1.02 and JDK 1.1.

An Apple Mac OS X JVM is available at

Please read our makeHelpIndex our Getting Started instructions for details of how to get the JDK and install it.

Then follow the usage instructions for details of how to run MakeHelpIndex.

Does MakeHelpIndex index every word in my pages?

No. Not only would this make the index file too big and so unusable.

You can add more keywords by hand, or alter your HTML to make sure that MakeHelpIndex generates the required keywords automatically.

Where do I get a Java Virtual Machine?

The usual way to get a JVM is to download and install Sun JavaSoft's Java Development Kit (JDK). Make sue that you select the right version for your operating system.

An Apple Mac OS X JVM is available at

Help Index File

What is the help index file?

The help index file primarily contains the list of keywords which you want to appear when people visit your site's Hi HelpIndex page.

When a user visits a page with Hi HelpIndex, first the Hi HelpIndex Java classes are loaded from the server. When Hi HelpIndex starts running, it loads the help index file that you have specified in your index1 applet parameter. When the index file has been read, Hi HelpIndex can show its list of keywords and respond to user input.

The help index file is actually just plain text, with each line a "record". There's one Header record, a Description record and then one or more URL, Index Item and Base URL records. Each URL record defines a URL, eg a web page. Each Index Item record defines an index, ie something the user searches for. Finally, one or more Base URL records define a prefix for all following URLs. The format uses short-cuts and the Base URL records to make the index file smaller. For details, please see the Index File Format Specification.

PHD has deemed that help index files usually have a filename extension of .hi, eg site.hi, but you can use whatever name takes your fancy.

How do I make it?

Most people make their help index file using Hi Lab. Alternatively MakeHelpIndex can be used.

Hi lab and MakeHelpIndex both analyse your existing web pages and builds a help index file for you automatically. Check that the generated index file is what you want. Edit it as necessary in Hi Lab.

Finally, if you are using Hi HelpIndex as a database viewer, then you will want a programmer to generate the index file directly from your real database. Email PHD if you would like our help doing this.

Where do I put it?

Usually you put the index file in the same directory as Hi HelpIndex, and upload it to your server.

If you know what you are doing, you can put it in a different directory. Note that Java security restrictions will limit which directories Hi HelpIndex can access.

Can I edit the help index file by hand?

Yes, if you must, using a plain text editor, though using Hi Lab is much easier. Do not save it in your word processor's own format.

What versions of the help index file are there?

There are four versions, with different Format codes.

Formats 0 and 1.x are effectively obsolete, though supported by Hi HelpIndex version 2.1.

Format 2.1 coding 1 is the latest version.

Can Hi HelpIndex read all old versions of the help index file?


Language Files

What's a language file?

A language file has a set of strings which Hi HelpIndex uses as its prompts, eg field and button names.

For example, a version 2 French language file would change the name of the Display Page button to Exposez la page.

Hi Lab can create and edit language files. A language file must be in a defined format given in our language file specification.

Note that changing the language file does not change your index file at all. However you might like to set up Hi HelpIndex with two index/language sets, ie an English language file and an Engish index file, and a French language file and a French index.
Hi Lab's new page page wizard can write a suitable such web search page. Set index parameters as necessary.

What versions of a language file are there?

There is a language file format defined for Hi HelpIndex version 2. An obsolete version exists for version 1.

How do I use a language file?

Hi Lab can be used to make a web page that uses a language file.

Otherwise specify the language with the corresponding index parameter, eg:

<PARAM NAME=index1 VALUE="site.hi,french2.hil">

Make sure that you upload the language file to your server.

What language does Hi HelpIndex use by default?


You do not need to specify a language file to use English.

What language files have you got available?

You can copy and use these language files:
Version 2 French french2.hil German german2.hil
Version 1 French french.hil German german.hil

What else can I use the language file for?

You can also use a language file to change some the prompts if you have a specialised use of Hi HelpIndex. For example our user information database example changes the keywords prompt to Users, etc.

Does using a language file convert my index file into that language?

No, changing the language file does not change your index file at all. However you might like to use English with an Engish index file, and a French language file with a French index. Specify two index parameters in your HTML, eg

<PARAM NAME=index1 VALUE=english.hi>
	<PARAM NAME=index2 VALUE=french.hi,french2.hil>

In version 1, you would have to use two separate forms, and the index and language parameters instead.

Advanced Issues

Should I alter my HTML?

There is no need to alter your HTML to use Hi HelpIndex.

However, if you use Hi Lab or MakeHelpIndex to generate your help index file from your web pages, then you may find that altering your HTML will produced a better index file. For example, you might like to change a page title or introduce keywords.

What's this new KEYWORDS attribute to the A tag?

The KEYWORDS attribute is a new non-standard addition to the HTML A tag. However, using it will not stop your pages from working as browsers will just ignore it.

KEYWORDS is used by Hi Lab and MakeHelpIndex to generate more index keywords automatically.

Hi Lab or MakeHelpIndex will look at this tag
<A NAME=prod>Products</A>
and generate an index keyword of "Products" which will point to this page anchor.

Using KEYWORDS, Hi Lab or MakeHelpIndex will look at this tag
<A NAME=prod KEYWORDS=Software>Products</A>
and generate two index keywords, ie "Products" and "Software", both of which will point to this page anchor.

Only Anchor KEYWORDS option

Hi Lab has a specialised option for use with the KEYWORDS attribute.

If the "Only Anchor KEYWORDS" box is checked then only the custom KEYWORDS attribute is supported, as follows:

  • If a KEYWORDS value is given then its contents is added as keywords.
  • If an empty KEYWORDS value is given then the anchor contents is added as a keyword phrase, as normal.
  • Can I use the CODEBASE attribute in my APPLET tag?

    Yes, but all your class and gif files must be in the directory that you specify.

    Remember that your help index file must be accessible to Hi HelpIndex. Java security rules say that it cannot access a directory higher in the disk hierarchy. So if Hi HelpIndex is in a classes sub-directory, then your help index file must be in classes or lower.

    Important: Note carefully that the Hi HelpIndex classes must be on the same server as the web page which calls it. If this were allowed then you would be using the resources of someone else's server.

    See usage.

    Errors you might get

    What's this "Hi HelpIndex page must be on same server as applet classes" message?

    This message will appear in place of the icon or form if you have set the APPLET CODEBASE to refer to a different server, eg if your web page is on but you use CODEBASE to refer to Hi HelpIndex on the PHD server, After this message (if there is room) you will see the name of the CODEBASE host and the name of the HTML host.

    Hi HelpIndex does not allow this. You must have the Hi HelpIndex classes on your server. This stops you referring to Hi HelpIndex on PHD's server from your own pages.

    ClassFormat error

    This usually means that you have not written your HTML to call Hi HelpIndex quite right. You must have exactly the correct capitalisation. Using helpindex.class sometimes results in this ClassFormat error.

    <APPLET code=HelpIndex archive="hi210.jar" width=450 height=250>
    	<PARAM NAME=index VALUE=site.hi>

    Alternatively, a ClassFormat error means that the Java class files were corrupted somehow.
    Make sure that you have got the latest versions of all the classes and make sure that they are uploaded to your server correctly.

    Hi HelpIndex    PHD