© 2010 Ugur Akinci
I’m sure you’ve heard it by now — Adobe AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime) is the newest addition to the arsenal of tools technical communicators have. I’ve been studying AIR for the last few weeks right now, mainly through the excellent videos and interviews posted by Adobe’s Senior Product Evangelist (that’s really his title) R. J. Jacquez.
But before you plunge into hours of materials posted on Jacquez’s blog, I wanted to summarize my understanding of this new technology for my readers, by way of a quick introduction to AIR.
1) AIR is a runtime application that runs on your desktop and is free to download — just like the PDF reader, MS Media Player, or Quicktime and Realtime players.
2) AIR’s most important role will be in changing the way traditional help files look. Gone is the good-old 3-Pane .CHM file format. Now your help files can look like the front page of New York Times! How about that? See the new NYT Reader which is built on Adobe AIR. Check out the left-sidebar navigation links, which is nothing more than your traditional help file navigation links.
NOTE: I don’t know how Adobe will handle the challenge of iPAD since it does NOT use FLASH. Flash is necessary for any AIR application to work.
3) Thanks to AIR, your readers can browse through your help file not only by index keywords but by photos, videos, etc. Jacquez does an excellent job in patiently explaining this new revolutionary help format in his 90-minute Introduction to AIR Webinar. This webinar requires an Adobe User Registration which is free.
4) Since AIR creates a local SQL database on your computer, you can have access to your help file even when you are not connected to the Internet, like when you’re in a plane or traveling in a remote corner of the world. When you establish contact, AIR updates the help file automatically and synchronizes it with the latest contributions from multiple authors. That way your help file is always kept up to date.
5) AIR allows readers to add their own comments to the help file topics. That way, after clearing through the built-in administrative approval process, your help file can grow organically with best-practice tips and tutorials uploaded by the very same people who test your product every day — your end users.
Beyond these particulars, AIR facilitates a Major Conceptual Change in the way technical communicators design and create their documents.
The shift is from Providing Content (or delivering information) to Engaging Audiences. In this “Web 2.0” age of Social Marketing, AIR provides the interactivity and mass participation that traditional HTML Help tools fail to provide.
And AIR comes free with RoboHelp 8. We’ll revisit AIR, what it means and how can we best use it in technical communication in the days and months ahead.