Best format for offline use with Android phones

Please post all questions and comments regarding Help & Manual 7 here.

Moderators: Alexander Halser, Tim Green

Best format for offline use with Android phones

Unread postby Peter Muckle » Tue Oct 22, 2019 12:31 am

Hi,

I'm just getting back into H&M after a break of 10 years or so (!)... I wondered what the best format would be for offline use on (mainly) Android phones? Can a whole webhelp site be downloaded and read offline? Or do I need to look at epub. I'd like to incorporate HelpXplain and as many functions as possible, including video.

Thanks

Pete
Peter Muckle
 
Posts: 16
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2019 9:33 pm

Re: Best format for offline use with Android phones

Unread postby Tim Green » Tue Oct 22, 2019 6:51 am

Hi Pete,

Access to local help on iOS and Android is only possible if you integrated it directly as part of your app. You can't do it with external HTML generated by something like Help+Manual because you don't have a web server on the phone. Also, linking to external files on iOS and Android is massively restricted by all the security barriers. Theoretically if you can manage to package a PDF together with your app you could link to that, but only to open it. The users would then have to find the right topics themselves.

The only really viable method for help on iOS and Android is WebHelp served up on your Internet server. You can link to that normally the same way you would link to any other web page from your app, and it will then be displayed normally in the phone's web browser. This also has the big advantage that you can update the documentation whenever you like and don't need to redistribute it for every little change or correction. Online WebHelp is really the only way to go. :?
Regards,
Tim (EC Software Documentation & User Support)

Private support:
Please do not email or PM me with private support requests -- post to the forum directly.
User avatar
Tim Green
Site Admin
 
Posts: 21055
Joined: Mon Jun 24, 2002 9:11 am
Location: Bruehl, Germany

Re: Best format for offline use with Android phones

Unread postby peter54 » Tue Oct 22, 2019 7:55 am

hello
for "taking with me " webhelp projects in area zone where i'm not sure to have internet connection
i use locally webserver :
- on PC : bitnami localhost
- on android (phone & tablet) : bitserver

this allow to show the webhelp completely with all finctions ok
peter54
 
Posts: 6
Joined: Fri Oct 16, 2009 9:13 am

Re: Best format for offline use with Android phones

Unread postby Simon_Dismore » Tue Oct 22, 2019 8:58 am

If you are developing content for a known group e.g. your employees, and you have some understanding of / influence over what android devices they use and apps they install, you might find ePub is a good approach.

ePub 3.01 (3.2) supports interactive content, but there isn't much interactive content out and not all readers support it. I've had good results compiling H&M projects, including HelpXplain, to ePub and viewing it with the Lithium app on android (Samsung).
Simon_Dismore
 
Posts: 136
Joined: Thu Jul 13, 2017 2:57 pm

Re: Best format for offline use with Android phones

Unread postby Peter Muckle » Wed Oct 23, 2019 2:17 am

Thanks all for your replies.

My intended output is for guides, instructions and manuals that are not related to software, to be used in areas with poor or no internet access. Videos are less important if I can include Xplains in epubs, especially if they play audio.

Alternatively, a simple app to open webhelp locally would be feasible.

Pete
Peter Muckle
 
Posts: 16
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2019 9:33 pm

Re: Best format for offline use with Android phones

Unread postby Tim Green » Wed Oct 23, 2019 6:59 am

Peter Muckle wrote:Videos are less important if I can include Xplains in epubs, especially if they play audio.

Unfortunately, ePub isn't an interactive format and doesn't support anything like that. Most ePub viewers are basically focused on plain text and a few simple images -- they were designed originally for reading novels. Cutting-edge ePub 3 viewers may support more advanced features, but you need to know that your Android users have a viewer like that. :?
Regards,
Tim (EC Software Documentation & User Support)

Private support:
Please do not email or PM me with private support requests -- post to the forum directly.
User avatar
Tim Green
Site Admin
 
Posts: 21055
Joined: Mon Jun 24, 2002 9:11 am
Location: Bruehl, Germany

Re: Best format for offline use with Android phones

Unread postby Peter Muckle » Wed Oct 23, 2019 9:18 am

Thanks.

I don't mind if users have to have a specific epub reader in this instance.

Pete
Peter Muckle
 
Posts: 16
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2019 9:33 pm

Re: Best format for offline use with Android phones

Unread postby Simon_Dismore » Wed Oct 23, 2019 10:10 am

Peter Muckle wrote:Thanks. I don't mind if users have to have a specific epub reader in this instance.

FYI there's some more discussion about ePub in this topic.
Simon_Dismore
 
Posts: 136
Joined: Thu Jul 13, 2017 2:57 pm

Re: Best format for offline use with Android phones

Unread postby Alexander Halser » Wed Oct 23, 2019 10:43 am

I don't mind if users have to have a specific epub reader in this instance.


Please have a look at Simon's link to the EPUB 3.2 discussion. We are at the ready to implement EPUB 3.2 in Help+Manual, HelpXplain and eWriter as well, once it is typically supported by eBook readers. In theory, EPUB 3 is backwards compatible, so an older EPUB viewer would not be able to display the bells and whistles of EPUB 3, but show a more static version of the HTML inside the eBook. But that's theory only. In practice, such an EPUB 3.2 file is a HTML5 application in a box, including JavaScript and page logic. If an EPUB viewer does not handle JavaScript (and most don't), you don't see anything, not just a reduced static version of the HTML. It will look as if the eBook is damaged.

An EPUB 3.2 file is very similar to the eWriter eBooks that Help+Manual and eWriter (and soon HelpXplain) create. It is a container with HTML, images and page logic and there is a viewer which is able to run this HTML app and display the dynamic content.

With the recent update of our free eWriter HTML compiler (http://www.e-writer.com) we have redesigned the viewer app on a completely new code base, that is in principle cross-platform. The viewer is now available in the Microsoft Store for Windows and we do plan to make it available for other platforms as well. First MacOS, but iOS and Android could follow. The beauty of the eWriter eBooks is that they have a distinctive file extension. File extensions are crucial on all platforms to know a particular file type and to find an app for a particular file. This works quite well on Windows 10 already: when you try to open an .ewriter file on Win10, it will look for an app in the Microsoft Store and find the corresponding viewer.

EPUB 3 is not so simple, because EPUB 3.2 still shares the same file extension ".epub". But it's in fact a very different file type than, say, EPUB 2.0 and the viewer responsible for EPUB files in general might not be able to display it. It doesn't help either, to point the user to a particular EPUB viewer that is capable of EPUB 3, because there is only one default viewer for ".epub" on every system, and that one will most likely take precedence.
Alexander Halser
Senior Software Architect, EC Software GmbH
User avatar
Alexander Halser
EC-Software Support
 
Posts: 3953
Joined: Mon Jun 24, 2002 7:24 pm
Location: Salzburg, Austria

Re: Best format for offline use with Android phones

Unread postby Tim Green » Wed Oct 23, 2019 11:22 am

Peter,

In addition to Alex' information, you also have to be aware of the strict security limitations on Android and iOS. Even if there is a viewer that is capable of displaying your file type, your app installer needs to be able to store it in a place where it can actually be opened in the viewer app with a call from your app. That is much more problematic than you might think if your experience in computing is mainly Windows or MacOS or Linux. All apps on mobile operating systems (i.e. iOS and Android) are sandboxed and have very strict limitations on what calls from the app can access.

I'm not entirely sure what the current situation for this is on Android, but it is something that your developers need to check out carefully before investing any time in developing a help system that they may not be able to access in practice. :?
Regards,
Tim (EC Software Documentation & User Support)

Private support:
Please do not email or PM me with private support requests -- post to the forum directly.
User avatar
Tim Green
Site Admin
 
Posts: 21055
Joined: Mon Jun 24, 2002 9:11 am
Location: Bruehl, Germany

Re: Best format for offline use with Android phones

Unread postby Peter Muckle » Wed Oct 23, 2019 11:49 am

Thanks both, very useful.

I want to distribute a field guide for people who don't know which bit of the guide to look in.

I'm thinking of a simple decision tree arrangement, so for example the user would be presented with 2/3 images or buttons, clicks on the image that resembles the thing they are looking at, which takes them to another set of 3-6 images or questions, and so on, eventually leading to a 'normal' help page.

It is mainly for use with Android phones and tablets, although there will be iOS users.

It would be good to have a library of ebook guides, which is what makes me lean towards epubs because the reader app takes care of the library.

My other option (if I understand correctly) is to write a simple app which installs webhelp in the app directory, and displays it in an html control.
Peter Muckle
 
Posts: 16
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2019 9:33 pm

Re: Best format for offline use with Android phones

Unread postby Peter Muckle » Wed Oct 23, 2019 12:01 pm

It would be perfect if the offline files could be synchronised/updated.
Peter Muckle
 
Posts: 16
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2019 9:33 pm

Re: Best format for offline use with Android phones

Unread postby Tim Green » Thu Oct 24, 2019 8:09 am

Peter Muckle wrote:It would be perfect if the offline files could be synchronised/updated.

That would be possible if it is all integral to your app, because then everything is inside your app's sandbox. You could do it through the normal update mechanisms.

My other option (if I understand correctly) is to write a simple app which installs webhelp in the app directory, and displays it in an html control.

Yes, that would work theoretically. But as always, the Devil is in the details. WebHelp is a complex page that needs quite a lot of scripting and advanced HTML5 and CSS3 components, particularly if you are including Xplains and/or videos. You need to make sure that your Webview control will support all that within the restricted, sandboxed environment of your app.
Regards,
Tim (EC Software Documentation & User Support)

Private support:
Please do not email or PM me with private support requests -- post to the forum directly.
User avatar
Tim Green
Site Admin
 
Posts: 21055
Joined: Mon Jun 24, 2002 9:11 am
Location: Bruehl, Germany


Return to Help & Manual 7 Forum

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests