18 Replies Latest reply on Dec 30, 2012 12:01 PM by Peter Grainge

    Commerical adobe air application built using Robohelp - thoughts on software protection

    RomanCat Level 1

      Hello Forum,

       

      I am in the process of building a commerical software application - a niche business methodology (processes, tools, templates) - and for which I naturally want to apply *some* level of protection against unauthorized copying.  The two main requirements I have are:

       

      1. That the software package itself cannot be installed any number of times on any number of machines (as is currently the case with the adobe air output for distribution).

      2. That large chunks of the content cannot be copied and pasted

       

      Here is where my thoughts are so far:

       

      1. There are a number of third party providers in this space.  The ones i have idenftifed so far are: LimeLM, NitroLM, Excel Software's AirLicense and Zarqon.  There is also something called Sharify out there but from the site and lack of developer response I think this is now dormant.  All of these provide a means of locking down one license to one device but that can be transferred if the user loses and changes their device. Has anyone had any experience of these or other solution providers?

      2. As I understand it there is html code that can be added to disable copy and paste.  Does anyone know what this is? Does anyone know how to apply it?

       

      Finally: we are a small start up without in-house technical skills.  This was a major reason we chose RoboHelp as a solution - it meant that the software could be build by us, the subject matter experts who were creating the content. Does anyone know of a good place to crowd-source the technical skill set required to apply both the solutions to 1 and 2 described above?

       

      We are using RoboHelp 9 with Adobe Air desktop application output.

       

      Thanks in advance for any constructive comments - and best wishes to you and yours for 2013!

       

      Felix

        • 1. Re: Commerical adobe air application built using Robohelp - thoughts on software protection
          Peter Grainge Adobe Community Professional

          I am confused by this post as RoboHelp does not allow you to create AIR applications, it only allows you to create user help and deliver that as if it were an AIR application.

           

          If you want to build AIR applications you need the AIR development tools. Go to Adobe's site and enter AIR into the search field.

           


          See www.grainge.org for RoboHelp and Authoring tips

           

           

          @petergrainge

          • 2. Re: Commerical adobe air application built using Robohelp - thoughts on software protection
            RomanCat Level 1

            It is RoboHelp content which is then generated as 'Adobe AIR Application' output.  It is one of the options for configuring the output, as per:

             

            http://help.adobe.com/en_US/RoboHelp/8.0/RoboHTML/WS81F63111-6ACF-4a02-B2B2-461FEBFA8093.h tml

            • 3. Re: Commerical adobe air application built using Robohelp - thoughts on software protection
              Jeff_Coatsworth Adobe Community Professional & MVP

              Yes, that’s true, but the locally-installed flavour of AIRHelp is a closed box – you really can’t get much under the hood like you can with your own created AIR apps. Adobe has the AIRHelp output locked down. You need to check out the developer community forum - http://forums.adobe.com/community/air

              • 4. Re: Commerical adobe air application built using Robohelp - thoughts on software protection
                RomanCat Level 1

                Thanks for the reply, Jeff - I will ask the question in the Air forum and repost here anything that looks interesting.

                 

                In the meantime... if anyone else has any experience adding a serial / licensing function to AIRHelp applications I would be *extremely* keen to hear from you. 

                 

                Please do post here or send a direct message if you prefer.

                • 5. Re: Commerical adobe air application built using Robohelp - thoughts on software protection
                  Jeff_Coatsworth Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                  You’ve actually posted this one in the wrong RH discussion – it should be over in http://forums.adobe.com/community/robohelp/airhelp - maybe Peter or Rick will move it for you.

                  • 6. Re: Commerical adobe air application built using Robohelp - thoughts on software protection
                    Peter Grainge Adobe Community Professional

                    I have seen your post in the AIR forum. There is no confusion here since you replied saying that the core of what you want to do is describe some business processes. That can be done using RoboHelp.

                     

                    AIR Help, as explained, is created from RoboHelp which has a built in tool to package the HTML files as an AIR application. You do not have access to the tool to edit how it builds the help so you have to accept it as is. What Jeff is saying to you is that to deliver something similar you will have to create your own tool. I suspect that many hours went into what Adobe supply in RoboHelp so I wish you luck with that.

                     

                    The other post you have created is, as Rick has pointed out, in the same forum as this. If you are going to create your own AIR application, you need to ask at http://forums.adobe.com/community/air

                     

                    Your questions need to be about creating a new AIR app, not tinkering with the tool in RoboHelp. We would help you here if we could but no one has asked these questions since AIR Help was introduced. I do understand why you want to protect your work but I don't know of any way of doing it with RoboHelp.  I guess you could create the AIR Help, assuming it allow you to attach what you want to attach, and then deliver it in one of the tools to which you refer. However, if any user has access to the AIR file itself, then they can distribute it if so minded.

                     


                    See www.grainge.org for RoboHelp and Authoring tips

                     

                     

                    @petergrainge

                    • 7. Re: Commerical adobe air application built using Robohelp - thoughts on software protection
                      johndaigle Level 4

                      Hi, Felix

                      Because your ultimate purpose is to package your AIR Help as a commercial digital-rights-secured product, I'm thinking you might be served by contacting Scott Prentice, who has the most experience with this kind of specialized use.

                      His website is http://leximation.com/airhelp/

                      Scott is a very accessible chap and I think he would be happy to steer you in the right direction by emailing him from his site. I notice you also posted on HATT and Scott often chimes in on that board as well.

                      I presume you have also investigated the required digital signature to be able to distribute your AIR Help.

                       

                      Extra FWIW: From your description, your project appears to be a standalone knowlegebase app as opposed to a Context Sensitive Help project attached to a companion AIR Application. If that ever the case, you may want to look at an example that is installed with Adobe RoboHelp 9 but is often overlooked. You'll find a Sample located along this path.

                      C:\Program Files (x86)\Adobe\Adobe RoboHelp 9\RoboHTML\Samples\en_US\Salesbuilder\AIR_Application_and_CSH_Help

                      To see it in action, you would install both:

                      • Salesbuilder-help.air
                      • SalesbuilderWtW.air

                      The Salesbuilder RoboHelp Sample project itself has a topic specifically related to how CSH works in AIR Help.

                      Let us know how you make out.

                       

                      John Daigle

                      Adobe Certified RoboHelp and Captivate Instructor

                      Evergreen, Colorado

                      www.showmethedemo.com

                      • 8. Re: Commerical adobe air application built using Robohelp - thoughts on software protection
                        RomanCat Level 1

                        @Peter: thanks for your post.

                         

                        One of the vendors sent me this message earlier:

                        If the files are Flex-based before the compile, then it would be possible, otherwise it doesn’t seem so, since the output of the compile is an AIR installer, not a module that could be loaded into a wrapper.

                         

                        From what I have read from your post and others neither seems possible.  If there really is no workaround then that is a huge disappointment as we have spent time, effort and money building the AIR application via RoboHelp and will have to start from scratch using an AIR developer (we have no in-house technical skills which is one of the reasons we chose RoboHelp as an authoring tool).

                         

                        I have tried to post to the Adobe AIR forum but cannot for some reason... it is greyed out even though I can post to other forums.  I will have to follow this up with the site administrator, whoever that is and however I am able to contact him.

                         

                        Thanks again for your reply in any case.

                        • 9. Re: Commerical adobe air application built using Robohelp - thoughts on software protection
                          RomanCat Level 1

                          @John: thanks for your post also.

                           

                          Funnily enough I had a message from Scott via the HATT forum at about the same time you mentioned him on this forum. I have sent him an email in the (ever decreasing) hope that there may be *some* kind of workaround so that all the effort we have put into creating the RoboHelp-generated AIR application has not been in vain.

                           

                          I am running RoboHelp 8 rather than 9 and so unfortunately don't have access to the files you mention.  Do you think the CSH in AIR might offer some kind of solution?

                           

                          Thanks again for taking the time to post.

                          • 10. Re: Commerical adobe air application built using Robohelp - thoughts on software protection
                            Peter Grainge Adobe Community Professional

                            Can whatever provides the protection run the AIR installer and then delete it?

                            • 11. Re: Commerical adobe air application built using Robohelp - thoughts on software protection
                              RomanCat Level 1

                              Hi Peter - good question, I could ask the shortlisted vendors - but presumably that would need access to the underlying Flex/ActionScript coding in the first place... which is what the posts here on this thread say isn't possible?

                               

                              The only other alternative the vendor has said is if the output can be configured to compile not as a complete installer but as a module.

                              • 12. Re: Commerical adobe air application built using Robohelp - thoughts on software protection
                                Peter Grainge Adobe Community Professional

                                I really need to look through this all again. Will do so on Sunday. 

                                • 13. Re: Commerical adobe air application built using Robohelp - thoughts on software protection
                                  RomanCat Level 1

                                  Much as this is an imperative for us, I do appreciate it's veering into the weekend:-)

                                   

                                  Thanks for letting us know you will look at it again - have a good weekend in between now and then,

                                   

                                  Felix

                                  • 15. Re: Commerical adobe air application built using Robohelp - thoughts on software protection
                                    RomanCat Level 1

                                    Either way, just saying any and all help much appreciated - thanks.

                                    • 16. Re: Commerical adobe air application built using Robohelp - thoughts on software protection
                                      Peter Grainge Adobe Community Professional

                                      Perhaps it's time to take stock of the requirement, what has been established and your options given where you are.

                                       

                                      Requirements

                                       

                                      1. You want protection against multiple installs.
                                      2. You don't want users to be able to copy and paste the content.

                                       

                                      Established

                                       

                                      1. Neither of those are built in to AIR Help.
                                      2. To build them in you would have to create your own AIR application as the RoboHelp code for creating the AIR installer is locked down. Confirmed by Scott Prentice on HATT.
                                      3. You do not have an house AIR developer.

                                       

                                      Options

                                       

                                      Tackling Requirement 1 is going to require a developer to replicate what Adobe have done and add the extra requirement that the installer can only run once.

                                       

                                      • Given the hours that Adobe put into this and with the resources at their disposal, I have to question the commercial viability of that.
                                      • A customer could legitimately need to reinstall, for instance in the case of a hard drive failure.

                                       

                                      Perhaps my earlier suggestion of finding someone who can wrap up the AIR file in something that deletes it after installation, thereby preventing a second installation, would be viable. You would need to investigate that and do it in a way the customer can get a fresh download where a further installation is legitimate.

                                       

                                      Otherwise I think you need to be looking at a very different approach. Your problem is the same one that Adobe face. You will recall that when you installed RoboHelp you had to activate it. That authorises the use of RoboHelp on a specific machine. The licence authorises installation on a second machine and that has to be activated too. Attempt a third activation and you will get a polite refusal until you deactivate an earlier installation. What you need is a commercial organisation to supply your product in a similar way. The trouble there is your product is not an application in the same way as RoboHelp.

                                       

                                      You could use the WebHelp output and apply password protection to your site but again you are going to require development skills. Even then, you are relying on your customers not to reveal the password and that sounds like a No No as you don't trust them not to copy and paste the information.

                                       

                                      Copy and paste is difficult to prevent. There are tools for web sites that would likely work in webhelp but you also have to prevent screenshots being permitted. Ultimately, going to state secret espionage levels, how do you prevent someone taking a photo of the screen? It's more about making it difficult to do casually rather than making it impossible. A high brick wall around your house makes entry difficult and deters most from attempting entry, it does not make it impossible.

                                       

                                      ****************************************

                                       

                                      I am sorry this is all negative but the root problem is your approach was wrong given these requirements. Unless someone else has other ideas, I think you need some commercial consultancy for information on how to get this idea off the ground and that is way beyond what this forum offers. Perhaps you could approach Scott Prentice at http://www.leximation.com for such assistance but I think it would be on a fee paying basis. Scott is a very knowledgeable person in many areas and he is very approachable.

                                       


                                      See www.grainge.org for RoboHelp and Authoring tips

                                       

                                       

                                      @petergrainge

                                      • 17. Re: Commerical adobe air application built using Robohelp - thoughts on software protection
                                        RomanCat Level 1

                                        Hi Peter,

                                         

                                        Thanks for taking the time to revisit my post and give me your thoughts.

                                         

                                        It's definitely an issue of our own making: our intial research didn't go much further into establishing that (a) RoboHelp generated an Adobe AIR application and (b) licensing options were available for that.  We now understand that the underlying code cannot be tinkered with to allow for third party software license systems to be added in in the usual way.

                                         

                                        I have been in direct contact with Scott over the weekend about whether, how and how much it would cost to rebuild the whole thing using standard AIR development tools rather than RoboHelp.

                                         

                                        Before that - however - we believe there may be a very satisfactory workaround that would work in the following way:

                                         

                                        1. RoboHelp generates the .air installer packager from which we can extract an unprotected instance of the app as a .exe file

                                        2. Use an installer program (something akin to Inno Setup) that runs the software activation process upon first run, then simply checks the license is still valid on each run thereafter).  The solution we are looking at also provides a way of managing lost licenses, change of machine etc.

                                         

                                        There is obviously more to it than that and we haven't confirmed that it'll work but - theoretically - it looks like there might be a workable solution before going for a rebuild.  I will post the final results if there is interest.

                                         

                                        All the best,

                                         

                                        Felix

                                        • 18. Re: Commerical adobe air application built using Robohelp - thoughts on software protection
                                          Peter Grainge Adobe Community Professional

                                          I for one will definitely be interested in how you get on. If you are successful I would like to add the method to my AIR pages.

                                           


                                          See www.grainge.org for RoboHelp and Authoring tips

                                           

                                           

                                          @petergrainge