Converting to CHM should be simple. Just open each project and compile as CHM format.
CHM format also works with merging just as WebHelp does. Whereas WebHelp relies on a specific folder structure to accomplish things, CHM is a bit simpler. You just ensure all the merged CHM files are in the same folder. There is another way to make it work by registering certain folders, but the plop it all in a single folder works well.
Linking these to Context Sensitive help will be a different matter. Your developers will need to use different calls to open the CHM. And you will need to create MAP files and assign Map IDs to the topics. And it really shouldn't matter that the CHM files are different. You can make that work.
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Thank you Rick
I've just had a quick stab at this by publishing the Master project and 1 sub-project. The results aren't promising: each project is now a self-contained chm with no common TOC and all inter-project links are broken.
The structure I have is a Master project with a single boiler-plate topic and the main TOC, and several sub-projects.
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Note that I said it's easy to republish. But I didn't say that the overall process would occur without issues.
Establishing the relationship occurs the same way as it does in WebHelp. You insert references to the TOC. You may actually have to re-insert because at the time you make the reference, the dialog asks whether it is for CHM or for WebHelp. So it wouldn't surprise me much to find that you have to re-establish the Master/Slave relationship that way.
Links between projects will be a bit tricky to make happen. I think you can probably overcome this by using the Related Topics controls. I'd have to do some digging to sort that.
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My understanding of cross project links is that they are very different in webhelp and CHMs. Create a cross project link to another CHM and you will see what I mean. There is something about this at the end of my Merged Help topic for RoboHelp 8.
I know when others have contacted me about producing both types of merge, they have ended up creating two cross project links and using conditional build tags.
I've skated through the thread so forgive me if this has been covered but your developers really don't want to put CHMs on a server. See http://www.grainge.org/pages/authoring/chm_mspatch/896358.htm
I'm wondering if the developers just don't like the number of files partly because it looks more complex and partly because they are still thinking of space and installation considerations. If you measure by the clock rather than emotion, it really isn't an issue. There are many files but all very small.
Whilst webhelp can be run locally, you will need to tick the option to apply the Mark of the Web and I believe that can have issues with PDFs if your help links to any.
See www.grainge.org for RoboHelp and Authoring tips