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Your options are webhelp and CHM help. Your client is saying no to CHM help but it is not clear if they are saying that for the right reasons. CHMs are a potential security issue if they are run across a network but run locally they are OK.
You don't say whether your application is web based or installed locally. If it is web based then you need webhelp, which does not require having RH Server, and if your application is installed locally, then you should be using CHMs. It really is that simple.
Can they cross over? You can install webhelp locally but what you are installing is a whole bunch of files rather than a single file. The number can run to thousands although they will be small. To make that work, you would need to include what is know as the Mark of the Web, a means of allowing stuff intended to run from a server, to run locally. For that you need RH6, otherwise IE settings need to be changed on each PC and I doubt these customers will allow that. I think it fair to say that while this can be done, it would not be the normal way of doing it. Perhaps others would comment. CHMs can be run from a network and you can minimise the risks. There is a topic on my site about that. I think your consultants would need to discuss that with the customer.
I would say the first step is to talk to the consultant with the developers. The calls from the application are all going to have to be changed so it is not a task to undertake lightly. Discuss the above with them and then come back with the further questions that will inevitably arise.
RH Server is only required where you want its extra features. Most people will be using webhelp without that. Bear in mind that there is a cost to your clients as they will need a RH Server licence if running the help from their servers rather than yours.
Thanks Peter! Our application is installed locally but updated via the web, thus the concern I have over users having to download huge files. It sounds like chm is the way we should go. Can I bother you with some follow up questions?
1. Do you have any suggestions on minimizing the chm file size? I'm guessing the biggest reason is that with .hlp projects RoboHelp encourages you to use .bmps but that's not exactly the best file format :) Will just converting the images to gifs help?
2. A colleague of mine just informed me that he ran Windows Update and his chm files would no longer open. I did some searching online and found this: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/902225 about Microsoft changing chm security so that they couldn't be run and potentially be used to hack. Are you familiar with this? Any idea how we can get around this so it won't affect our users? I really hope we don't have to make them right click on the help files to choose Unblock - what a pain! Have you run into this problem?
Thanks for your help!
1] Tick the Optimize CHM size field when you generate the help. GIFs and JPGs are significantly smaller but whether or not that makes a significant difference depends on the number you have.
2] That particular KB item is about when users download a CHM from the web. Won't your users to downloading a patch that runs an installation routine? Installing a CHM is different to the user downloading it.