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ngdb - Norton Guide database reading library.

Project description

ngdb - A Python library for reading Norton Guide database files

PyPI version


Back in the mists of time, in the days of MS-DOS and Clipper programming, Norton Guide database files were a very popular form of hypertext help. Lots of information is still kicking around inside such files.

This library is another in a reasonably long line of tools I've written to help keep that information available.


ngdb is available from pypi and can be installed with pip or similar Python package tools:

$ pip3 install -U ngdb


ngdb also installs the following tools:

  • nginfo
    Simple tool that serves as an example of using the library: given a series of files on the command line, it prints a simple list of the files showing what type of NG file it is (Norton Guide or Expert Help), as well as its title.


If you want to hack on the code yourself you'll find most of the routine stuff you'd do when testing and the like in the Makefile. Type:

$ make help

to get a list of available targets.


The library is designed to provide a method of opening and reading Norton Guide database files. The code here provides no methods for rendering the content; there is no converter, no reader, etc. The library is designed to be the core of such tools. One such tool, which as of the time of writing is a work in progress, is ng2web -- a template-driven tool that converts Norton Guide databases into HTML.

The main class in this library is NortonGuide. When called, with the path to a Norton Guide file, it will open up the guide, load up all the key information, and provide an interface for loading up the short and long entries, loading up the menus, providing access to see-also items, etc.

At this point it probably goes without saying that this library is likely only really useful to anyone who knows what a Norton Guide is and cares about the content. As such, at least for the moment, this README will (with apologies) assume some knowledge of what a Norton Guide is and its main structure.

Opening a guide

As mentioned above, a guide can be opened using the NortonGuide class. For example:

>>> from ngdb import NortonGuide
>>> guide = NortonGuide( "tests/guides/" )

Having loaded the guide you have access to the key information about it:

>>> guide.title
'OSLIB v1.06'
>>> guide.credits
('³ OSLIB v1.06', '³ OSLIB Is Free Software with NO WARRANTY!', '³', '³ This library was compiled by Dave Pearson.', '³')
>>> guide.made_with
'Norton Guide'
>>> guide.menu_count
>>> guide.menus
(<Menu: OSLIB>,)
>>> guide.menus[ 0 ]
<Menu: OSLIB>
>>> guide.menus[ 0 ].title
>>> guide.menus[ 0 ].prompts
('Functions', 'FAQs', 'Revision History', 'Credits', 'About')

And so on. See the documentation produced by make rtfm for all the details (eventually I aim to find a good way of generating and hosting full documentation).

Navigating a guide

Three methods exist for navigating a guide: goto_first, goto and skip. As you may imagine, goto_first goes to the first entry in a guide, goto goes to an entry at a specific byte offset in the guide, and skip skips the current entry.

It should be noted here that an open guide has the content of a location pointer. As you do things with the guide, the location will change.

When skipping, if you try and skip off the end of the file, a ngdb.types.NGEOF will be thrown.

Loading an entry

Load the current entry with the load method. Note that using this method doesn't move the location pointer. When loading an entry you'll either get a Short or a Long entry back. For example:

>>> entry = guide.load()
>>> entry
>>> entry.lines[ 0 ]
' OL_95AppTitle()          Set/get the Windows 95 application title.'

Plenty of properties that you'd expect exist. For now please take a look at make rtfm for all the details (again, more comprehensive documentation will be written).

A simple example

To illustrate a simple use of the library, here's tiny bit of example code that loads a guide, walks through all the entries, and prints the first line from each one:

from ngdb import NortonGuide

guide = NortonGuide( "tests/guides/" )

while not guide.eof:
    print( guide.load().lines[ 0 ] )

Taking it from here

As mentioned above, there's a lot more to the library and the documentation absolutely needs expanding. For now a make rtfm within the repository will make the core documentation available. What needs to be added is a proper tutorial on how to use the library to build a useful too.

This will follow.

Meanwhile, do also keep an eye on ng2web as an example use. It is the "proper" test of this library.

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