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Is there a way to generate an AIR help file that does not require the user to install the runtime? I googled and saw once that there is evidently an option to provide the runtime environment in the app itself (sort of like an integrated viewer file). However I don't know whether this was a standard function of AIR apps or just a hand-coded workaround.
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That’s probably more of a function of an AIR app – RH AIRHelp being one kind of AIR app, it doesn’t support this. You either have to install the AIR runtime or use the one that’s already there. Since you can’t edit the AIRHelp app, there’s no way of “baking in” this sort of function. AIRHelp hasn’t had much attention in the latest releases, so I wouldn’t hold my breath on any further changes.
Thanks for the fast response. We had looked into AIR help when it was first released and decided that it is no option for us due to the required installation process (user needs runtime, requires admin rights etc.). I had hoped that Adobe might have solved this issue in the meantime.
Nope – HTML5 is the “new sexy thing” these days.
AIR would have been a nice alternative to the good old CHM. Having a single file is often a great benefit for us and it also had a neat online update feature yet was viewable offline.
Have you explored the Air output that is browser based?
Maybe that will be more what you are trying to achieve?
AIR Help suffered a difficult birth because of a number of people who did not like the fact it was an installed app. It was a downside for some whose users did not have the necessary rights but that did not mean it was not usable where that was not an issue. It's a bit like saying a Ferrari is rubbish because you can't do the school run or the shopping in it and ignoring the fact that is not what it was designed for.
There were some things it would have been very good for but biased bad mouthing meant it wasn't commercially viable to develop it further. I accept the issues were fundamental to some but it could have been great for some others. It is now the case that Adobe have not fixed any of the issues in the last few releases and I don't believe they will now. For that reason the reality has to be that I would not recommend anyone goes over to this format now.
See the information about this format on my site.
See www.grainge.org for RoboHelp and Authoring tips
Thanks for your thoughts, but browser-based AIR help would be just as difficult to distribute as a webhelp (a collection of files and folders vs. a single file to download). The main idea in this particular case is to provide two links on a website to view an online version (webhelp) or download an offline version (currently CHM).
I described that poorly let me try again..
There are two links on the website. One leads to an online-version (webhelp), the other lets you download an offline-version (CHM). This is a large information system containing medical/legal data so most users want to have an offline/fallback version on their local system.
And you were hoping that the offline solution could be a one-file solution like AIRHelp. Understand completely. I’d be tempted to create either a zip file of your WebHelp (provided you haven’t got characters in topics that the zip complains about) to be installed locally or create a self-extracting .exe or .msi that unpacks your WebHelp to a location the user specifies (or that you hardcode for them). I do something like that for one of the products have – the whole system lives on a LAN server & my WebHelp is just a folder on that LAN server where the client machines point to.
Sometimes we see folks frown on CHM output because they think it looks too "dated". But Adobe added this way cool means of packaging WebHelp output inside a CHM file. So if that sounds remotely appealing you may want to investigate that aspect.
However, in re-reading the thread, it would seem most of your interest is in the notification and prompting of a new version.
In thinking about that, I can fathom a way to make that happen with a CHM. What you could do is insert an inline frame in the start page of the CHM file. Configure that inline frame to point to an HTML page you have where the web version of the files live. As the CHM is opened, the user would then see any new information you wanted to present.
I wrote a script for that some time ago. It first tries to load a small image from the target website, which only serves as test whether the internet connection is reliable. If yes, it loads the actual content and displays is, otherwise the content of the offline page is displayed. That works well for single reference pages like release notes, but not for a 20.000+ topic information base..
Yes that feature to build a webhelp into a CHM is really cool. We tried the concept of inserting Webhelps and Flashhelps into CHM containers some 12 years ago manually but found that it was too much work at the time. Now it's a one-clicker.
Your response seems to suggest that you feel this would be necessary to do for 20,000+ topics.
As the CHM always opens to a default topic, my suggestion was only to take this approach to the default topic.
But as they say, it's your circus and you can have as many monkeys (or as few) as you want.