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Help files are usually created with a HAT (help authoring tool) like RoboHelp that are specifically designed for "help" type output including TOC, index, search and individual topic pages. Also HATs allow for content re-use. You could use the same topic in more than one type of output (webhelp, local .chm help file, printed or online .pdf). You could also re-use topics in builds for different products.
An interactive pdf might be made in another type of software like InDesign which is more for page layout than help. If you had a single project that didn't require re-use or an automated TOC or index then perhaps it would work in that situation.
Can you create context sensitive help with a PDF?
Quality of search.
Being able to hide some text in dropdowns. This can be for advanced users or beginners so that their needs do not get in the way of ordinary users.
How much good software do you see using PDFs as online help? Wonder why?
Thank you Peter. I thought about the context sensitivity of help (but we don't use it all that frequently, so I needed something more.) Your thoughts on the drop-down and expanding text are great. Those are definately a benefit that we use, and as far as I know, you cannot do that with a pdf. I haven't looked into it myself, but supposedly the pdf has a good search feature.
Thanks for your thoughts! If you come up with any more, please let me know.
I have worked with both interactive pdf files and HATT for going on 5 years now. Online Help is the answer!
Couple of thoughts:
1. Quick access to up-todate info without having to email, etc
2. Colors, and hyperlinks, and map ids, etc
3. You can add pdfs to an online help system but you can't add pdfs to a pdf file
4. Document preservation - easy to keep a backup of what a database instance was at a certain date.
The list goes on! Hoep this helps!
Thank you for your thoughts. I'm glad you believe online help is the way to go, because I feel the same way and I am trying to justify my job. But I am having a hard time putting together a definative list of reasons. For all of your great ideas, I can come up with ways to handle this with a pdf that may sound reasonable to my management (see below). You said the list goes on and on. Can you please expand on your list? Thanks!
1. Quick access to up-todate info without having to email, etc (We would have the pdf accessable from the Web server, Intranet or Internet and therefore would also be quick and easy to update and ensure customer is accessing current version.)
2. Colors, and hyperlinks, and map ids, etc (Pdfs can handle colors and hyperlinks. We currently aren't using map ids. The ones here that I think are valuable are pop-up, drop-down, and expanding links, as well as map ids, which we will potentially use.)
3. You can add pdfs to an online help system but you can't add pdfs to a pdf file. (You can link from a pdf to another pdf. A pdf can also launch a Captivate movie right inside the pdf.)
4. Document preservation - easy to keep a backup of what a database instance was at a certain date. (This is only if you have this feature on your HATT - we currently don't. We source control outside of our HATT. This would be no different for pdfs.)