RoboHelp 8 - AIR Help

This form of help did not prove popular for various reasons. Whilst it continued to ship with Classic versions of RoboHelp, development stopped after a few more versions.

About AIR Help

AIR Help is a new format for help that makes use of Adobe's AIR development platform. It requires no development skills from the author and provides new features for the end use. It is not constrained by having to use Microsoft's HTML Help Compiler so it can introduce features such as user comments.

  • AIR help creates a single .air file that installs the help as an application on the users PC.
  • There is also a browser version but it does not have all the functionality of the local version.
  • A number of templates and skins are provided. If you have access to Flash developers, you can create your own viewers.

What is different?


In the locally installed version of AIR help, users can record their comments against a topic. The comments will be saved in an XML file in a location defined by the author of the help.

This file can be exported to other users so that they too can see the comment when viewing the help.

There is no central control of the comments in this version although it could be set up as company policy that the comments are exported to an administrator who would then issue them to other users.

Comments are not available in the web version.


Users of Microsoft HTML help (CHMs) have been able to mark topics as Favourites. I believe this feature is now available to all users of AIR help. I will check this.

Mini TOC

RoboHelp 8 introduces the Mini TOC. I believe it is available in all outputs (except printed).  I will check this.

Quite simply it is a list of all headings in the topic so that the user can quickly move to an area of particular interest. The heading styles that are shown are controlled by the author.

In AIR help this is only available in the Classic template and the title can be changed to, for example, How Do I? This enables the mini toc to be used for procedures.


For locally installed help, the appearance will be the same regardless of operating system. This is achieved through the use of the Adobe AIR Help Viewer and can be achieved with your own viewer. There will be some differences in the browser based versions.

The author can select different templates that provide different functionality and each template has a selection of skins to further change appearance. All the designs have been configured to allow branding.

Three templates are included as described in the articles on my site, Classic, Unipane and Multi Tab Accordion.


Searching has been given a real makeover in RoboHelp 8 as described in Searching in RoboHelp 8.

AIR help displays the help in the topic pane rather than the TOC pane and I believe that is better suited to the additional amount of information presented to users. Let's hope this becomes an option in WebHelp at least later on.

Automatic Updating

The author can set the help to automatically check for the availability of updates in the locally installed version.

I will investigate whether the user or an administrator can block this feature if desired.


Digital signatures provide the user with an assurance that the AIR file has not been tampered with since it was produced by the author. They are not mandatory but you may want to give your users that assurance. Much will depend on how close you are to your end users.

Resources and RSS Feeds

The author can include links to resources such as company procedures, relevant websites and RSS feeds. I believe the end user can also add their own, to be checked.