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Sandcastle Help File Builder


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additional content

An extra file included in the help file used to define extra content or used as a supporting file. This can be an HTML topic, an image, script, style sheet, etc. In earlier releases of the help file builder, this was the way non-API content was included in the help file. The preferred method of including such content now is to use conceptual content.

See Also:  conceptual content



This is a tool supplied with Sandcastle that is used to build the help topics for conceptual and reference builds. It is passed a configuration file containing a list of build components to use in transforming the topics into HTML and a manifest file that lists the topics to build.

See Also:  Sandcastle


Code Block Component

A custom build component that can be used to colorize code, add line numbering and/or collapsible section, and import code from working source code files. It can be used in both conceptual and reference builds. The component is integrated with the Sandcastle Help File Builder and is also available as a standalone component from the same project site for use in other tools or your own build scripts.

code snippets file

A file used to store commonly used code snippets. The snippets can be inserted into a conceptual topic using the CodeEntityReference element.

conceptual build

A build that uses Sandcastle to produce help file topics using information extracted from conceptual content topics and their related files.

conceptual content

A topic file that contains conceptual content. These can be used to add usage notes, walkthroughs, tutorials, etc. to a help file. Conceptual topics use MAML rather than HTML to define their content.



See reference.

documentation source

An individual assembly (executable or DLL), an individual XML comments file, a Visual Studio project file (C#, VB.NET, or J#), a Visual Studio solution file containing one or more of the noted project types, or a wildcard item that results in a list of one or more of the previously mentioned file types. These are used to produce API documentation in a help project. At least one assembly must be specified as a documentation source in order to produce API help content. Documentation sources are managed using the Documentation Sources project node in the Project Explorer window.

Tip Tip

Given that solutions and projects are supported as documentation sources, you may find it easier to add them as documentation sources instead of the assemblies, comments, and references that they contain. When a solution or project is used, these items are imported from them automatically at build time.


Globally Unique Identifier, GUID

A unique value that is associated with each conceptual topic and image in a project. When inserting links to topics or images, the ID is used to refer to them. This allows you to alter the names or locations of the topic files without having to change the name or location in each topic that references them.



An acronym that stands for Microsoft Assistance Markup Language. Conceptual content topics are composed of MAML elements.

See Also:  conceptual content



Also referred to as a dependency. This is an assembly that is referenced by one of the documented assemblies for base class information but is itself not documented as part of the help project. They are managed via the References project node in the Project Explorer window. References can be GAC entries, assembly files, COM objects, or Visual Studio project files.

reference build

A build that uses Sandcastle to produce help file topics using information extracted from managed assemblies and their associated XML comments files.



Sandcastle is a set of tools originally produced by Microsoft that can be used to build help files for .NET managed libraries, conceptual content, or a mix of both. Microsoft officially discontinued development in October 2012. The Sandcastle tools have been merged with the Sandcastle Help File Builder project and are developed and supported there now as part of that project.

Sandcastle Help File Builder, SHFB

The Sandcastle Help File Builder is a standalone tool used to automate Sandcastle. It consists of a GUI front end that helps you manage and build help file projects. It uses a standard MSBuild format project file which can also be built from the command line using MSBuild or integrated into Visual Studio builds or other build scripts to produce a help file when your application projects are built. In addition, it provides a set of additional features beyond those supplied with Sandcastle that can improve your help file and make it easier to deploy. A Visual Studio integration package is also available for it that integrates the project management and build features into Visual Studio 2015 or later.

See Also:  Sandcastle


token, token file

A token is used as a replaceable tag within a topic and is represented using a token element. The inner text of the element is a token name. The tokens are defined in a separate token file. They are an easy way to represent common items that you use regularly such as a common phrase or external link.