Online Help as Adobe AIR: Overcoming the Adoption Barrier

RoboHelp,Adobe AIR,Packager for Adobe AIR,Technical Communication,Online Help,Help Authoring Tool,Web 2.0,Innovation in Help

If you are looking for Web 2.0 features in your help content, you may want to check out RoboHelp Packager for Adobe AIR.

Recently, _Gryphon Mountain Journal _had a blog post on Web 2.0 in online help and why software vendors have not enabled this so far. Clearly, we need to make more people aware about Adobe AIR and the promise it brings to Online Help. As a follow up to my comment, Ben had a few interesting questions about RoboHelp Packager for Adobe AIR and since they are general enough for everyone’s interest, I am answering them here –

1. When will CSH be included?

Context sensitive help is already included. If you install RoboHelp Packager for Adobe AIR and press F1, you will see help in Adobe AIR and it is context sensitive. More information is available as part of the documentation that ship with RoboHelp Packager for Adobe AIR.

2a. From what I’ve read, it’s not clear to me whether the AIR-packaged help is installed on or saved to a user’s hard drive. The description of the auto-update feature talks about going out to a central location and getting updates.

Adobe AIR generates a single file which can be installed on end users machine. RoboHelp Packager for Adobe AIR installs its own Adobe AIR help file as you install the application. If you uninstall RoboHelp Packager for Adobe AIR, it uninstall’s the Adobe AIR help file. If you are embedding your help with your software application, you can make the installation transparent to the end-user. This may require some installer work in integrating Adobe AIR file with your application.

Help on the end user machines is automatically notified of the updates and end users don’t need to go to the Server location, the update is seamless – at the click of a button. Adobe AIR makes the process of update seamless. Now, help can be independently updated and does not require a patch for your software application.

2b. What happens if your help system goes with a Web application and doesn’t need to be installed on users’ machines like a CHM is? Is it enough to have the AIR help file stored on a server only? Could the version on the server be configured to access a computer for updates?

Adobe AIR is a new help format under constant development. I agree that existing version of RoboHelp Packager for Adobe AIR is much closer to CHM in terms of output it generates. I expect RoboHelp to enable you to replace both CHM and WebHelp with Adobe AIR in the future.

4. In order to share comments, do reviewers have to email them? Are comments not saved as part of the AIR help so that I could open up my production help system and see people’s comments?

Comments are saved as part of Adobe AIR file and can be exported to XML file as well. At present, there are two workflows supported for comments. One, an e-mail based review and commenting workflow. As a first step, the author sends the Adobe AIR file to reviewers by e-mail. Reviewers can add comments and export the comments to a local file and send it back to the author (by e-mail). Author can aggregate the comments in a single Adobe AIR file and manage them (sort, view by topic/reviewer, delete).

The second workflow is a shared folder based workflow in which the Adobe AIR file is shared over the network in a folder. Once all reviewers have installed the Adobe AIR help, they can review and add comments. This is a synchronous review and commenting workflow compared to adhoc and asynchronous e-mail based commenting and review workflow. A reviewer can synchronize the comments and see the comments of other reviewers at any point in time and hence it helps save time for reviewers and also enable collaboration during the review process. The review initiator can also synchronize the comments and get the latest copy of the comments at any point in time.

To add to above description on the review workflow, the commenting feature is designed to help an end customer personalize Help by adding comments on the same. These comments will not be uploaded to the server, however can be exported to a file and shared with friends over email.