Better Ways to Access CS4 Help Files
Have you tried getting to the InDesign CS4 online help files from within the program yet? Or from any of the CS4 applications? If so, I’m sure you noticed that the old Adobe Help Viewer application is gone. Instead, your default browser opens a new window and connects to the Community Help page on Adobe’s web site for that program.
If you choose Help > InDesign Help; you’re brought to the main InDesign support page on Adobe.com with an empty search field you can use and a list of links to top issues and tutorials. Alternatively, you can enter a search term (like “object style”) in the Search Community Help field at the far right of the Application Bar:
When you hit Return/Enter, you’re brought to the same web page with the results of your search. Search results for your term include a mix of links to posts on third-party sites (like InDesignSecrets.com) and to CS4′s Live Docs manual pages on Adobe’s site. (Try this search for “image.”)
Close But No Cigar
It’s a laudable goal — bringing sites like this one to the attention of the InDesign-using community, and expanding on the cut-and-dried material in the program manuals — but Adobe forgot a few things. An obvious omission, to me, is a checkbox or Preference setting within the program that would let me confine the search to the programs’s actual help files. (This is normally why I’d open Help > InDesign Help; otherwise I’d just do a Google search on my own.)
Actually, the third-party sites included in the search results are a subset of what you’d get in Google itself; Adobe is doing some kind of filtering on its own and trying to include only reliable sources that have a long-term track record. Too often, though, the links to these sites lead to out-of-date content.
For example, when I search for “master pages” in InDesign CS4′s Community Help, the first search result is a link to an article about master pages in InDesign CS, from an old desktoppub.about.com page (click the image to enlarge it):
As you can see from the blue BETA reminder to the right of the highlighted Community Help section tab, this whole approach is still in the testing phase. There’s a red “Give us Feedback” link on the right, so by all means, use it! In one of my feedback submissions, I requested a date range field, or at least a checkbox that limits the search to items that have been posted since the release date of CS4.
Tip: When you get to the Search Community Help page, click the large Support tab (instead of the Community Help tab, selected by default) under the search field before doing the search. That way, only Live Docs and Knowledgebase articles appear in search results, and no third-party sites.
Go Right to the Manual
You may be wondering what happens if you’re not connected to the Internet when you choose Help > InDesign Help or enter a search term in the Application bar’s Search Community Help field. Are you out of luck? Do you get an error? Fortunately, no.
Instead, your browser opens to the home page of the Help files that are on your local computer, complete with its own TOC and Search field. Didn’t know they were there, did you?
Also, check out the upper right corner of the window. You’ll see a link to the PDF of the manual, which you can download from Adobe’s web site the next time you’re connected. The link appears in the Live Docs version of the help files too.
Whether or you’re connected to the net or not, it’s useful—and easy—to have quick access to the local InDesign CS4 help files, just as the Adobe Help Viewer provides in CS2 and CS3.
First, you need to locate the main page for the documentation on your computer.
On a Mac, the “home page” of the InDesign CS4 help files is here:
Macintosh HD > Library > Application Support > Adobe > Help > en_US >
InDesign > 6.0 > index.html
On Windows XP, the home page is here:
Local Disk (C:) > Program Files > Common Files > Adobe > Help > en_US >
InDesign > 6.0 > index.html
Of course, if you’re not using the US English version, choose your language instead of “en_US” from the long list you’ll find in the Help folder on your hard drive. When you open your language folder, you’ll see a folder for each CS4 program you have installed. Drill down within each one to find its index.html page. (So for Illustrator CS4, the last part of the path is Illustrator > 14.0 > index.html.)
Then, just double-click on the index.html page to open it in your browser. After it loads up, bookmark it (save it as a Favorite) for easy retrieval. Not everyone realizes you can have your web browser bookmark local files as well as web site URLs.
I still use Community Help — I think it’s a great idea, and I sometimes find information beyond what the manual offers. But when I specifically want to see what the official documentation has to say about a topic, I click one of the bookmarks in the “CS4 Help Files” bookmarks folder I created in Firefox.