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Article ID: 133236 - Last Review: September 27, 2013 - Revision: 2.1

This article was previously published under Q133236
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When using Books Online's Search Plus feature that ships with Visual C++ on Windows 95 and Windows NT version 3.51, WinHlp32.exe creates index files that take several minutes to generate. The index files created will only search the text of the selected book. This article describes how to configure Books Online to search multiple books simultaneously.


A contents (.CNT) file is used to specify all the help files you wish to search. This will create full text search (.FTS) files for each file you wish to include in your regular searches. Subsequent access to Books Online searches will not regenerate the .FTS files.

Below is an example (VC20BKS1.CNT) which you can use with Books Online Search Plus.

:index Book 1, Users Guide = vc20bks1.hlp
:index Book 2, What's New, MFC = vc20bks2.hlp
:index Book 3, C/C++ = vc20bks3.hlp
:index Book 4, Win32 API = vc20bks4.hlp
:index Book 5, OLE 2.0 SDK = vc20bks5.hlp
:index Book 6, ODBC = vc20bks6.hlp
:index Book 7, Extensions (68K Porting) & Miscellaneous  = vc20bks7.hlp
:index VC++ Knowledge Base Articles = Win32kb.hlp
To make your .FTS files:

  1. Place VC20BKS1.CNT in your \msvc20\help directory.
  2. Delete any related .FTS and .GID files. They may be in your \msvc20\help directory, your <windows>\help directory on Windows 95, or your <windows> directory on Windows NT. (The .GID files are hidden.)
  3. Make sure you have copies of all of the Visual C++ Books Online help files in your local directory. They are named VC20BKS[1-7].HLP.
  4. From Books Online's Contents, select "How to Use Books Online."
  5. Click the Search Plus button, which takes you into the Help Wizard.
  6. Select the Customize search capabilities option, and then click the Next button.
  7. From the list of books, select the books you wish to keep .FTS files on. Click the Next button in this and subsequent pages until finished. Note that depending on subsequent choices, the .FTS files can occupy a great deal of disk space and take several minutes to generate.
Here are examples of .FTS file sizes and build times for Visual C++ version 2.2:
                "Don't include phrase searching"      Default Selections
                Size (bytes)                          Size (bytes)
Book 1            832,512                              3,088,384
Book 2          1,816,578                              7,212,544
Book 3          1,228,800                              4,493,312
Book 4          3,235,328                             13,166,080
Book 5            974,336                              3,645,952
Book 6            420,864                              1,806,848
Book 7          1,349,632                              4,228,512
KB Articles       932,352                              3,481,600

approx. build time  7 min.                            11 min.
NOTE: These files were generated on a P5-90. The sizes may vary depending on your path and options selected. When building using the "Don't include phrase searching" option, a VC20BKS1.FTG file will also be generated which is 4,911,104 bytes.

Additional Details

If you change the contents of the .CNT file, you will have to repeat the steps and delete the existing .FTS and .GID files.

Using a contents (.CNT) file allows you to add other Help files to your Books Online full text search. This will not give you additional F1 search capability.

You can remove the index (.IND) files from the \mscv20\help directory when running on Windows NT 3.51 and later. These indices are only used by the Help system included with earlier versions of Windows NT. They are no longer necessary.

All searches are forward searches. For example, if you select book 3 before you begin your search, you will not pick up items in book 2. Thus, if you want to search all books, you must select the "How to Use Books Online" selection in the Contents window.

For more information the Win32 help system, refer to the Win32 Software Development Kit (SDK) documentation.

  • Microsoft Visual C++ 2.0 Professional Edition
  • Microsoft Visual C++ 2.1
  • Microsoft Visual C++ 2.2
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