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Hi Kieren Rudge and welcome to our community
It's been my experience with "smart client" applications that you simply speak the words to the computer and the smart client sorts it all out. No help system needed! (Just kidding, of course. Couldn't resist the urge to joke a bit about the use of "smart client")
On a more serious note, I think we need more information. I'm pretty sure that unless you are constructing something waaay off target, RoboHelp and other authoring tools can easily do what you need. It will all depend on what you intend to produce as well as your comfort level with the tool. For example, with RoboHelp, you simply install and begin working. But with Flare, you have to have additional software, such as the DotNet 2 Framework in order to use the authoring tool.
In other words, if you can be a tad more explicit about telling us what you need to create (beyond "smart client" application) we might better be able to help.
Hi Rick, thanks for responding.
My concern is that we have used robohelp in the past and the helpfile was 28MB and you had to distribute the whole file each time you made a change to it. As we will be providing updates to our software through downloads I dont want thousands of users downloading a huge file so I am hoping that there is a way to send out just the changes to the client machines. Our solution is a mainly offline app and so we cant rely on web help only.
If you can't use WebHelp, you might think about breaking up the CHM into a merged project system. If you can identify the type of topics that are regularly updated (reference data, database tables, etc.), you could group all your help into dozens of child CHMs under a parent "umbrella." Then maybe you'd only have to replace a few smaller CHMs at a time. Just a thought...
Leon's solution makes sense. If you can switch to WebHelp, experimentation has taught me that you can replace one .html file topic with another with the same name within the output only, and the help system will continue to work just fine.
The problem with either solution is that you're now in the position of having to specify to your clients (regular ones--not the "smart" client) precisely where each file should be dropped, unless you can wrap some sort of installation program around it, and have them download and run the installation program. Even then, if they did not install in the default location to begin with, I would assume this could get rather tricky, requiring that the installation program first find the proper place via the Registry or something (although I'm definitely running outside of my area of technical expertise when I say this).
Thanks for all the responses guys, this is great.
I guess my main problem will be the contents and searching ability. Our installer will be able to pick up from an ini file where to put files but if we send out individual chm files for new pieces of functionality the contents will not update and the search facilities will not find them?
I'm guessing you'd always have to send the updated master.chm along with any of the changed child chms.
I'd suggest some testing with 4-5 small projects before committing to this, or any other, solution.