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Easily create Apple Help-Books for your Mac OS X app using this Jekyll template and build system.


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Jekyll Apple Help

Jekyll-Apple-Help is a Jekyll template and Xcode build system that makes it easy to author and build Mac OS X Help Books. Add Help to your Mac app, and start authoring in Markdown within minutes. The resulting Help has the same look & feel as Apple's Yosemite apps.

Try out the Demo Site.

Jekyll Apple Help Screenshot


When recently helping develop a Mac App (Xynk), I wanted to make some how-to documentation available through Apple's help system. Should be some simple HTML, right? Well, as Apple Help veterans know, the help developer documentation is byzantine and the tools are idiosyncratic. How to simplify help for the indie developer?

Fundimentally, Mac OS X's Apple Help Books are static web sites and Jekyll is an excellent static site generator, so the two fit naturally. In particular, Jekyll's recently added Collections feature is perfect for wrangling help topics. Add some layouts, plugins, and build-glue and you get Jekyll-Apple-Help.


  • Use Markdown to write help topics
  • Xcode integration
  • Automatic and flexible navigation menu
  • Automatic help index generation
  • Styled like Yosemite's help
  • Supports Multi-lingual help


Optional: fswatch for auto-refresh via jekyll-server.command


The JekyllHelp template is designed for easy installation into a typical Xcode project. By default, the template's Info.plist expects the project and app to have the same name (e.g. MyApp.xcodeproj builds

In the following, substitute your app/company for "MyApp"/"com.mycompany".

Create MyAppHelp Bundle Target

  1. Select File > New > Target...

  2. Select Bundle template from OS X > Frameworks & Libraries

  3. Enter the settings:

    • Product Name: MyAppHelp
    • Bundle Extension: help
  4. Replace Xcode-generate MyAppHelp folder with JekyllHelp (renamed to MyAppHelp)

  5. Update Bundles identifier to com.mycompany.*

  6. Add a Run-Script Build-Phase with the script:

    /usr/bin/make -C "$(dirname "$PRODUCT_SETTINGS_PATH")"

Now the MyAppHelp target should build, creating the product

Integrate Help into MyApp Target

  1. Add target MyAppHelp to MyApp's target dependencies (Build Phases > Target Dependencies)
  2. Add product to app target (via File Inspector)
  3. Add to MyApp target Info properties:
    • Help Book Identifier: com.mycompany.$(PROJECT_NAME:rfc1034identifier).help
    • Help Book directory name: $(PROJECT_NAME)

Finished. Now run your app and use the Help menu to open/search help.


Basic authoring only involves the following files in the bundle:

  • JekyllHelp
    • book-icon.png
    • _English.lproj

Book Icon

The Help-Book icon file book-icon.png is displayed on the help title page and in topic page headers. Typically it is just a copy of the app icon. It should be large (~512px) to accomidate retina displays.

Title Page (Access Page)


Sorting Groups and Topics

Sort topics by including a line like this in the front matter of your topic page: order: 3. Number each one as you would like it to appear within its group.

To order groups, open the file and add your group names to the group_order hash in this format: group_order: {"Group Name": 1, "Another Group": 2}

Help Topics

Each help topic is a single Markdown file in a language collection folder (e.g. _English.lproj). The only required Front Matter variable is a title. A 'hello world' topic:

title: Hello World
Welcome to JekyllHelp.

Help Topic Variables:

  • title
  • description
  • keywords
  • order
  • robots

A more typical Front Matter example with variables for description, keywords and ordering:

title: Keyboard Shortcuts
description: Quickly accomplish many tasks using keyboard and other shortcuts.
keywords: keypress, accelerators, cheat codes
order: .INF
...topic content...


A new language is added by creating a new langauge collection folder (e.g. _Japanese.lproj). Language collections must be registered in _config.yml. Some common language are registered in the default configuration (EJD-FIGS).

JekyllHelp's Makefile will generate a help index for every *.lproj in the help bundle.

Apps that use Jekyll-Apple-Help

CleanMyMac 3 | 🇺🇦 #StandWithUkraine

Flinto For Mac