I like very much the outlook and the speed of an AirHelp, however there are some concerns in my company regarding this type of help, and it would be awesome if I would get those dissipated.
First, there is the concern about the help trying to access the Internet. We have a lot of customers, who due to their security setting in their company do not have access to the Internet. Therefore, my question would be: is it possible to use the AirHelp locally (on a local workstation or on a server), somehow similar to the chm files?
Second, there is a concern about the size. Is it possible to generate a single file that can be opened somehow the same way as we do with a chm file or a documentation file? At some point as I was testing the AirHelp, I found out that in order to be able to view it, one has to download Air from Adobe. Is it possible to distribute the Air, or they just have to download the Air themselves from the Adobe web site, the same way it is done with Acrobat Reader?
Thank you very much
Yes, there is a locally-installed flavour of AIRHelp - the file is a .air file that gets installed on the workstation. Size can be a problem because the single .air file gets unpacked into (basically) a full WebHelp installation on the workstation. The .air file you create in RH is installed using the free AIR runtime. You can apply to Adobe for a license to re-distribute and package it with your own custom installer (that's the way my company does it with our .NET product).
See Peter Grainge's site for more info on AIRHelp - http://www.grainge.org/pages/authoring/air/air.htm
Using AIR as your primary output, you can either choose to output your help file as
i) AIR Application File
ii) Browser Based help
AIR Application file would install like any other application on your machine and this would not require any internet connection. However, as you pointed out in your second question, this would require you (or the users you are trying to distribute to) to have AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime) downloaded from Adobe’s website in order to view the help file. The Runtime setup is not as big as Adobe Reader and should not take much of space.
Browser Based help too can be used to view the help offline. The output in this case would be a bunch of files, the starting point of which would be index.html. This html file would load a Flex based output (SWF file) and you would need Flash Player in your web browser to view the help file.
Hope this information helps.
Thank you very much for your info, however getting a bunch of files would be a little bit cumbersome for the client, so the PDF file looks more appealing.
Applying for a license would not be a problem, though I do not think we would distribute Air. We could give a suggestion to download it from the Adobe web site.
I will check also Peter's web site regarding more details about Air.
I am just looking for something that could replace in an honorable way the chm, and to be more appealing than the PDF.
I also would like to continue using RoboHelp, therefore to be able to offer some arguments in favour of it to my higher-ups not to give it up.
Right now we are only generating PDF with RoboHelp.
Hi Mohit Arora,
Thank you for your answer.
For us would be interesting, from the distribution point of view, the AIR Application File, however hearing that it also generates a bunch of files, I do not know how convenient would be for the customer in comparison to a simple PDF file that is conveying the same information.
What if they choose to install it on a server-like system so it becomes available to other users over the net?
Is it also easy and transparent to install?
Also what is the difference in size compared to a chm file or a PDF for the same project? Approximate.
The same Browser Based help can be put up on some web server for everyone to access. The requirement on the client side would again be Flash Player. I am not sure of the comparison in size, but I guess CHM and PDF would be less than the Browser Based Help. But anyway if the browser based output is placed on the server, clients need not worry about the space.
The size concern is ours not the clients', for distribution purposes.
The documentation, for the time being, is about 550 pages, and the PDF is a little bit of concern now too.
We are searching for solution to lower it to about 250 pages.
You can't install the locally-installed flavour of AIRHelp to a server & expect it to be seen by all - that's what the browser-based flavour is for.
Extremely transparent to install - we bundle the runtime, the .air file and our app in an installer that gets run on each workstation (as an admin) - clients don't even know that it done all at once.
Can't tell you about size comparisons - currently our .air file is 11 MB, but it's still incomplete in covering all our program (I'm still adding material to it); we've never generated CHMs (they look way too dated)
It looks like your questions have been answered by Jeff and Mohit (welcome to the forum).
As Jeff has said, the installation can be made transparent to the customer who need never know about the number of files that get installed by the AIR file. Even if they do, what's the issue? This was a concern that everyone jumped up and down about when AIR help was first launched but no one seems to have found it a real issue. A storm in a teacup.
That said, if you don't also distribute the runtime and include that and the AIR help in your installer, you are making it more difficult for your customer and I think they would then be justified in complaining.
Word or PDF as forms of help are nowadays pretty dated.
Browser Based AIR help does not have all the features of the locally installed version. See my site on that.
See www.grainge.org for RoboHelp and Authoring tips
I understand that the PDF is pretty much outdated, however I understood that there are still customers who prefer to print physically the documentation and read it or just read it as a PDF document.
A PDF is also very portable and does not take too much space. Also, it is very fast through its TOC when it comes to accessing different topics.
From what I saw till now, and I must admit that I did not see to much yet, as I could not experiment too much due to time issues, from the AIR help is that it looks much nicer then the PDF and the chm. It is also very fast.
However, right now, these are not too much as arguments in favour of keeping the RoboHelp as authoring tool in our company, and I was looking for more interesting features that AIR might offer in comparison to other solutions.
So, to reiterate again the main points that are of importance to us right now for a help solution would be:
- size that it will take in the setup file: due to distribution
- it has to be standalone and installable/accessible on the network
- something else which would make it stand out compared to the PDF that we are employing for the time being
If I could get something definitely superior to just PDF from the points of view above, then I would be able to keep RoboHelp in our company.
Also I forgot to mention that if I would find also something that RoboHelp 9 has and makes the creation/maintenance of the projects way easier than just Word, then this might also contribute to keep RoboHelp alive in our company. Unfortunately, due to the screen tip issue with RoboHelp 9, I could not purchase it and was not able to check all new features that it offers.
I already downloaded the trial, and "played" a little bit with it, however it was only connected to the issue with the printed documentation (a different discussion in the Printed documentation forum), and because, from that point of view, it was a total flop, I did not get too much of feeling about it.
Also, right now, unfortunately, I do not have the luxury of experimenting. I am caught with a very important project that also have to translate into French, German, Japanese & Spansih, so I was hoping that perhaps I could get from the most experienced ones some arguments in favour of keeping and upgrading the RoboHelp.
I was saying in another discussion that my immediate boss already started converting the other smaller projects in Word, and getting rid of the RoboHelp, so I have this last one project that I manage which because of the use of conditional flags, is a little bit complicated to keep in Word. My upper boss already gave the OK to just keep this only project with RoboHelp until we could make an internal solution in Word that would deal with conditional flags.
Therefore, I was hoping that I could show something which would make RoboHelp stand out in ease of use as well as interesting features (I was looking for AIR to replace the chm) and make RoboHelp remain and upgrade, at least with this only last project.
Sorry to hear - frankly, the PDF-ability of RH to create good looking printed documentation (easily) is sorely lacking. That's why most people who need PDFs and help go the TCS way and do their single-sourcing in FM (which is tops in creating PDFs) and bring their content into RH for help generation.
Couple of worthy features (with AIR output) I can think of are:
1. You get a nice professional looking help. The look and feel of the help is customizable and looks same on all the platforms . So it also gives you a cross-platform edge.
2. You get the Commenting and Topic Rating features.
3. And you can manage the Help updation. When your clients open the Help and there is a newer version available they get to download the same. Further, you can also have some selective set of customers upgrade to the newer version (using the Help ID) only if they are entitled too. The other set of customers can remain at the older version.
There is a lot of formatting that has to be done in Word (it is not possible to do formatting on an existing PDF, with what I have at least), and then generate the PDF. That is eating a lot of my time.
What do you mean by "TSC" and "FM"?
I do not quite understand what the commenting is all about, however if it is what I can think of, i.e. customers can comment the accuracy & clarity of the help topic, then it is a nice feature.
The other thing about letting some customers (if not all) have access to the latest of the help is also something nice to have, though no one complained about not having the latest help.
I will check with our helpdesk and see if there are any of these issues.
Is RH9 helping in reducing the formatting time of the printed documentation?
...frankly, the PDF-ability of RH to create good looking printed documentation (easily) is sorely lacking...
It may shock folks to hear this, but I totally agree that this is really the way it SHOULD be. RoboHelp was always meant to create on-line help. Although folks often use PDF, it's really an awful medium for on-line use. Ask anyone reading things using an e-reading device. PDF content doesn't flow or scale to fit the screen. Sure, it can be adjusted to view content larger or smaller, but that's an action the user must take and it doesn't happen automatically. At least as far as I'm aware it doesn't work this way. I stand to be corrected on this.
Each tool has its own strength and should be used to exploit the strength. If you try to make a tool be the end all tool for all uses, it becomes bloated and usually doesn't perform well.
Just some thoughts from the edge... Rick
Helpful and Handy Links
I disagree with your assessment that one should look to the help for RoboHelp to see an example of what can be created with RoboHelp. Oddly, what you see when you open RoboHelp's own help cannot be produced with RoboHelp. It's something Adobe created that is called "Community Help". So it's similar, but isn't what you get with RoboHelp.
As an aside, I constantly find myself scratching and being puzzled when folks are all worried about the help looking too "dated" and wanting some new look and feel so that it's more "modern" looking.
I'd be willing to bet $100 against a single donut that if you seriously surveyed users, the look and feel of the help comes in dead last when compared with evaluating if the help actually did its job and was helpful. It's sadly funny, actually. Sort of like ensuring a prison cell is painted brightly and has the latest amenities when it's the last place in the world folks typically ever want to find themselves.
So you find yourself jumping through hoops to ensure the help is all attractive when most folks simply refuse to open it up and would rather pick up a phone or ask their cubicle neighbor how to do something.
Helpful and Handy Links
Sorry, that was a typo - TCS = Technical Communication Suite - a package of RH, Framemaker (the FM part), Captivate, Photoshop together for a cheaper price (& better inter-tool integration) than buying all the tools individually.
TCS allows you to author in FM and dynamically link those files to a RH project to produce help.
As Rick points out, RH is pitiful in producing printed documents because it was never really designed to create them. That's why you get an awkward workaround of going from RH to Word to PDF. Tools like FM or InDesign can go straight to PDF because they were designed for the "print" market originally. Others have complained that FM sucks when it comes to creating RTF files or HTM code - it's precisely because the tool was never designed to output in those formats that it's so bad at doing it.
Well, it is a form of AIRHelp - I understood it to be just a bit more of an "in-house" tweak to the basic skin - all functionality is the same as can be created with RH.
When it comes to help - sexy, modern & updated all help sell the package (even if nobody ever uses it) - it's all marketing now baby!
Happy turkey-time down south, y'all!
...Happy turkey-time down south, y'all!
Happy Turkey Time to you as well?
So from what part of this happy little speck of cosmic dust do you hail?
Helpful and Handy Links
“I do not quite understand what the commenting is all about, however if it is what I can think of, i.e. customers can comment the accuracy & clarity of the help topic, then it is a nice feature.”
Yes this is exactly what it is. Your clients can rate the topics (Topic Rating) and give you feedback. Other clients can see that feedback and add their as well.
“The other thing about letting some customers (if not all) have access to the latest of the help is also something nice to have, though no one complained about not having the latest help.”
I think this would be more useful in the following scenario:
Say, you have some customers who don’t have to pay for the updated help (say H1) since it contains just the updates to the existing product (say P1). For such cases, you can just update the Help Version. When the next version of product comes out (say P2), you want only the customers who have bought the new product version to update to the newer Help (H2). This can be achieved using Help ID. So the customers for P1 stay with updated H1 and customers for P2 can move to H2.
“Is RH9 helping in reducing the formatting time of the printed documentation?”
I don’t have any numbers to back up any of my claims for this. Though I can try get them for you, but not sure if you would be able to wait till then.
Picking up on what I think is outstanding.
Size of File for distribution
The AIR file you have to distribute will be larger than the PDF but it is not possible to say that it will be X times bigger. You will have to generate your content as an AIR file to find out the difference. I would not expect it to be anything signficantly large in today's terms.
Standalone and installable / accessible on a network
The local version is installed on the user's PC and that has more features than the browser based version that runs from a server. The local version is what gives the users features that the PDF cannot. Users can add / share comments which may be about how your product is used in their organisation and thus add to your generic content. They can mark topics as favourites to give quick access next time. They can add RSS feeds for information related to their work so that the product help becomes a sort of support centre, if you see what I mean.
The print quality of AIR help is bad. However you can still produce a PDF for when a print version is required. By using build tags your print content can include information not in the online version, such as screen shots.
Print versus online
Online help can use dropdowns so that you can give bare bone help that is sufficient for expert / average users but where novices can click a hotspot to access some dropdown text that gives them the additional information they need. That information would probably clutter things for more experienced users. In a PDF you have to put it all in.
Some of our topics are the equivalent of one page for an expert but several pages when novices expand the extra information. You cannot do that with a PDF.
See www.grainge.org for RoboHelp and Authoring tips
Thank you very much Peter!
I will see what I can do with this information that you gave me.
My immediate boss just does not want to have things too complicated, I guess, so is against the use of RoboHelp for that reason. Especially after all those hickups happen with the printed documentation.
I will see what I can do and keep the fingers crossed for me, OK?
Thank you again.
Personally I would set something up with the bells and whistles to show your boss just how much more useful OLH would be rather than a flat PDF. Probably much more powerful that any document or explanation. I might have something I can send you. Email me offline.
See www.grainge.org for RoboHelp and Authoring tips