IDG logo

Advertise with InfoWorld

SiteMap News Test Center Opinions Forums Careers Stock Quote Subject Indexes About Us Search Subscribe Home [Window Manager]

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 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 (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 protections.

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.

Brian Livingston is the co-author of Windows 95 Secrets and four other Windows books (IDG Books). Send tips to or fax: (206) 282-1248.

Missed a column? Go back for more.

Copyright © 1997 by InfoWorld Publishing Company


Copyright © 2002. InfoWorld Media Group, Inc. is a member of complies with the ASME guidelines with IDG extensions For New media.