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a) it's cross-platform
b) it can be read with (just about) any browser (historical statement, no longer true, see below)
c) it can be served if desired, OR it can be copied to a customer's local drive-or-LAN and browsed as a clump of local files (not served by any web server)
d) it can be tied to a GUI application for context sensitivity
e) it supports a nice model via frames with navigation aids like ToC, Search, Glossary, and so on.
However, some browsers, while fortifying themselves against internet threats, have upgraded themselves out of usability with good, old WebHelp.
As it stands, older versions of IE still work with most WebHelp. (If I wasn't still stuck with Win XP
here at the office, I could also comment on newest versions...)
Current version of Opera (v11.51)works with new WebHelp, but fails with last year's (and previous) WebHelp.
Current version of Chrome (v14) works with newer WebHelp, but the last year's version failed.
Also current Chrome fails with WebHelp created before this year (using Madcap Flare, anyway).
Current Firefox (v7) works fine with current WebHelp and with legacy WebHelp projects.
Current Safari (5.1) works fine with current WebHelp and with legacy WebHelp projects.
In all cases, I test against a WebHelp output published to a file server on our LAN.
In no case do I use webserved WebHelp.
Failures have had to do with browser security fixes that thwart "cross-site" calls, such as are used (apparently) by the WebHelp frames calling for their content.
With recent developments such as ssl/tls vulnerabilities, I think we can expect more activity in those areas and therefore more breakage of browsers and WebHelp. See this link:
So, what is the next publishing form/platform to consider, in case WebHelp goes south?
PDF is not my favorite solution, but if there's nothing else that fills the WebHelp niche, I'll hafta.
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