[fpc-pascal] OS/2 INF help support

Tomas Hajny XHajT03 at mbox.vol.cz
Tue Sep 8 14:09:17 CEST 2009

On Tue, September 8, 2009 12:07, Michael Van Canneyt wrote:
> On Tue, 8 Sep 2009, Graeme Geldenhuys wrote:
>> Hi,
>> I know that the FP IDE (text mode) has support for reading OS/2 INF help
>> files. This is pretty cool and it works with just about any INF file I
>> threw at it. :-)
>> I read my old VisualAge for C++ for OS/2 docs and it says that to
>> generate a INF you need to create the help markup (similar to HTML
>> apparently) in the IFP file and then compile it with the IBM IPFC help
>> compiler.
>> Does anybody know if there is an open-source IPFC help compiler? One
>> implemented in Object Pascal maybe?
>> I'm been doing some reading on various help file format - to be used in
>> my applications and possible Lazarus IDE. From my OS/2 2.1 and OS/2 Warp
>> days I remember the INF help was very impressive. Searching was
>> lightning quick even on old hardware and INF files a few megabytes in
>> size.  Apparently this is due to the very efficient INF help format.
>> Anyway, I want to try and implement a GUI version of the INF Help Viewer
>> code available in the FP IDE. But ultimately, I would like to compile my
>> own help as well, under Linux and Windows. Would this be possible?
> Standard answer I give to my boss in such cases:
> "Given time and money, anything is possible"
> :-)
> I suppose you'd need the INF specs in order to make a compiler for it.

Full specs for the binary format have never been made available by IBM as
far as I know (as opposed to the IPF markup language specification, of
course). There are some 3rd party documents based on reverse engineering
of the binary files - see e.g. http://www.edm2.com/0308/inf.html.

Regarding available code - the more modern version of the INF viewer
(NewView) distributed with eComStation (the latest versions of OS/2)
nowadays is written in / compiled using Sibyl compiler, i.e. in Object
Pascal, and the full source code is available as far as I know. However,
I'm not aware of any IPF compiler apart from that one produced by IBM and
included in OS/2 Developer Toolkit among others (still downloadable today,
although not from IBM pages any longer, I believe). I found the following
reference http://www.mail-archive.com/sibyl@netlabs.org/msg00233.html (it
refers to http://www.netlabs.org), but I suspect that the promise
mentioned there has never materialized.

>From technical point of view, I'd say that INF format capabilities in the
area of graphical layout might be considered outdated nowadays. Whether
this is important for your needs or not is another question, of course.
There were some very powerful capabilities (e.g. possibility of
creating/using special plugins directly invokable from the particular
document via a DLL call), but these have never been exploited fully even
under OS/2 and are obviously not well portable across different operating


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