During my RoboHelp class, students are introduced to the concept of generating a layout via the Single Source Layouts pod (View > Pods > Single Source Layouts) pretty early.
The pod, which appears below, contains a handful of layouts (output files) that can be generated one at a time or in a batch.
The type of layout you choose depends on your audience. For instance, you would choose Adobe AIR to generate Help as an Adobe AIR application, browser-based Help (with the theme and skin of an Adobe AIR application), or as a packaged data file that can be viewed in an AIR Help viewer. Adobe AIR is a cross-platform format for building and deploying applications that connect the desktop to the web.
You would go with WebHelp if you wanted a web-based or desktop Help on any browser and platform. WebHelp supports standard Help features and provides customizing capabilities.
And you would generate FlashHelp if you were worried about DHTML limitations for browsers and platforms and high-security firewall issues. Although FlashHelp is arguably the slickest-looking of the outputs, your customers would need to have the Flash Player 8 or later and a web browser to view the Help system. In addition, FlashHelp isn't as easily customized as WebHelp.
So there you have it... I've given you the basic information you need to understand the layouts on the Single Source Layouts pod. See ya...
What's that you say? I forgot the Pro layouts? Oh, sorry about that. As I teach my RoboHelp students about the big three layouts on the Single Source Layouts pod (WebHelp, FlashHelp and Adobe AIR), the two Pro layouts almost always get the short end of the stick. It's not that the Pro layouts aren't cool, they are. It's just that many RoboHelp developers don't have the one, key component required to take advantage of either Pro layout.
But I digress. First let me explain what the two Pro layouts are. WebHelp Pro and FlashHelp Pro deliver server-based output. The advantage of server-based output?
- Increased speed: The Contents, Index, and Search tabs appear more quickly.
- Usage information: Collect feedback painlessly from readers by analyzing their traffic patterns and search behavior.
- Runtime project merging: As a Help author, you can easily merge multiple projects at runtime. This is the perfect workflow if you are working with multiple authors, each working on a different part of the Help system and you want to combine everything as one larger project.
- Better Search: Provides a powerful search engine to produce better results.
So the Pro layouts sound great, better than either FlashHelp or WebHelp for sure (I'll discuss the merits of Adobe AIR in a future article). So what's the catch to using the Pro layouts? Just one, but it's a biggie. You will need to own, install and manage Adobe RoboHelp Server before you will be able to publish either Pro layout to a server.
RoboHelp Server? Simply put, RoboHelp Server is an option--purchased independently of RoboHelp--that adds the capabilities mentioned above to your Help system.
In the image below you will see the workflow that incorporates RoboHelp Server.
Basically you take your RoboHelp projects, publish them to the server and BAM, you'll get the database and feedback reports that make the Pro layouts stand apart.
In today's search-centric world, I think you would be well-served to consider adding the Pro layouts and RoboHelp Server to your Help arsenal.
Looking for learn RoboHelp quickly? I've got a two-day RoboHelp class coming up online. Click here to learn more. And if you'd like to learn how to install and use RoboHelp Server, we've got a 3-hour online class you'll be interested in. Click here for more details.
Follow me on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kevin_siegel