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Online help (to resolve Search in macOS that affects macOS)


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  • Staff

For many Affinity versions we have been aware that, on Sonoma, the macOS help system has not supported help search. Our proposed solution is for the software to use the online help with it's browser based help search at:

2.4.2.2356 beta on macOS has replaced the installed Help files with links to the online help system.

I would appreciate it if you can try the help option and check it opens a (default) browser window and that the help is in the correct language.

Thanks for you help checking this change.

Patrick Connor
Serif Europe Ltd

"There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man. True nobility lies in being superior to your previous self."  W. L. Sheldon

 

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Tested with APu on Ventura:

  1. my Little Snitch asks for permission to connect to affinity.help (no problem here, that's expected)
  2. it opens a browser window within APu, not in my default browser which is Brave
  3. the help itself works

But:

I, for one, have been browsing the help by manually setting a browser bookmark to file:///Applications/Affinity%20Publisher%202.app/Contents/Resources/AffinityPublisher.help/Contents/Resources/en-US.lproj/index.html
Obviously there is no offline "AffinityPublisher.help" in the new beta anymore?
That's not a Good Thing™… O.o

MacBookAir 15": MacOS Ventura > Affinity v1, v2, v2 beta // MacBookPro 15" mid-2012: MacOS El Capitan > Affinity v1 / MacOS Catalina > Affinity v1, v2, v2 beta // iPad 8th: iPadOS 16 > Affinity v2

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4 minutes ago, loukash said:

it opens a browser window within APu

… and it doesn't have a text search field to highlight words on the page, like browsers – and even the pathetic Apple Help app do.
Sometimes help pages are long, and the user needs to search for a keyword within the page.

MacBookAir 15": MacOS Ventura > Affinity v1, v2, v2 beta // MacBookPro 15" mid-2012: MacOS El Capitan > Affinity v1 / MacOS Catalina > Affinity v1, v2, v2 beta // iPad 8th: iPadOS 16 > Affinity v2

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Also, this "browser window" doesn't react to cmd-W (Close) command, even though it has focus. I wanted to close it with cmd-W and the main Affinity window was closed instead.

MacBookAir 15": MacOS Ventura > Affinity v1, v2, v2 beta // MacBookPro 15" mid-2012: MacOS El Capitan > Affinity v1 / MacOS Catalina > Affinity v1, v2, v2 beta // iPad 8th: iPadOS 16 > Affinity v2

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38 minutes ago, loukash said:

I, for one, have been browsing the help by manually setting a browser bookmark to file:///Applications/Affinity%20Publisher%202.app/Contents/Resources/AffinityPublisher.help/Contents/Resources/en-US.lproj/index.html

Obviously there is no offline "AffinityPublisher.help" in the new beta anymore?

Yeah as part of this change list I was surprised to see it no longer installed for people just like you, but despite the 100% hit rate in this thread so far I wonder how many people actually do this.

Patrick Connor
Serif Europe Ltd

"There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man. True nobility lies in being superior to your previous self."  W. L. Sheldon

 

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45 minutes ago, loukash said:

it opens a browser window within APu, not in my default browser which is Brave

Actually the dev may have used Safari, not "default" I have checked the code but will ask the dev to confirm and modify my post after Easter 

Patrick Connor
Serif Europe Ltd

"There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man. True nobility lies in being superior to your previous self."  W. L. Sheldon

 

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I don't mind this change and it reduces the package size by over 100MB. Perhaps a separate Help package could be provided for those who want to use it offline. Adobe apps work the same way but while they don't provide the Help as a separate package, they do provide a PDF of the help system. https://helpx.adobe.com/ca/x-productkb/global/offline-help.html#:~:text=To view your product's Help,menu choice or press F1.

I wouldn't expect the Help window to open in my system's default browser - Help is supposed to be in a window that is part of the application and always on top of other windows and that's what the devs have done. Also if it opened in my default browser I might get additional browser chrome cluttering things up.

Cmd+W is passed through to the parent window because it's just another Affinity window. That shouldn't happen but it happens with all Affinity dialogs. I agree that users would expect to close this window with Cmd+W so perhaps that issue would need to be fixed when this is rolled out.

The new Affinity window help has a much better default font size than the Mac system help which is great butthe user can adjust Mac help with +/- while the Affinity window doesn't support this accessibility feature.

But I fully agree that the lack of a text search field and Cmd+F is a big deal, I always jump to what I want with Cmd+F.

Affinity's help has never supported some of the standard Mac help features (back, forward, show/hide sidebar, share) so their omission from this window isn't a big deal.

Download a free manual for Publisher 2.4 from this forum - expanded 300-page PDF

My system: Affinity 2.4.2 for macOS Sonoma 14.4.1, MacBook Pro 14" (M1 Pro)

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1 hour ago, Patrick Connor said:

but despite the 100% hit rate in this thread so far I wonder how many people actually do this.

Well, I remember posting this as a hint a few times on this forum and getting a few kudos for it… ;) 
But fair call, I'm likely infamous for doing rather unusual things on my Macs :D 

Nontheless, my point is actually the lack of the offline package in the first place.

31 minutes ago, MikeTO said:

it reduces the package size by over 100MB

With a complex tool like Affinity is, an offline help system is a must, regardless the size.
There are too many scenarios where you want to look up help topics while not being able to go online.
(For instance, in our small apartment in Prague we don't have built-in internet because it would be too expensive. When I need to go online "excessively", I have to go to the pub around the corner… 🍺 … Which is not always the best idea while I would want to design something :D)

MacBookAir 15": MacOS Ventura > Affinity v1, v2, v2 beta // MacBookPro 15" mid-2012: MacOS El Capitan > Affinity v1 / MacOS Catalina > Affinity v1, v2, v2 beta // iPad 8th: iPadOS 16 > Affinity v2

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I don't understand what the original problem is or was since I use Sonomo on my Mac Mini and search works ok for me.
What I don't like about the web browser version is it vanishes when another app gets focus which was very unexpected.

 

My dad always told me, a bad workman always blames their tools….

Just waiting for Ronny Pickering…..

Affinity Photo, Designer, Publisher 1.10 and 2.4 on macOS Sonoma 14 on M1 Mac Mini 16GB 1TB
Affinity Photo, Designer, Publisher 1.10 and 2.4 on Windows 10 Pro. Deceased
Affinity Photo, Designer, Publisher 2.4 on M1 iPad Pro 11” on iPadOS 17.4 
 

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@Paul Mudditt There were two problems with help search. I believe this solution is intended to avoid the issue of searching for "blur" but getting "cross-references" as the only result. This impacted v1, too, and started with Sonoma. I believe this is the original thread.

While I don't mind this change to browser help, I thought this bug was fixed with the latest Sonoma update. It works fine for me now in 14.4.1 and I get similar results when searching the 2.4.1 help system using Apple's help search and the 2.4.2 beta help system using the help browser search. However, it didn't fix the issue with the v1 help. Could somebody else verify that it's working for them in 2.4.1 on Sonoma 14.4.1?

Unless I'm wrong, I don't think the browser help system is intended to address the other help issue with the missing Help menu search field. That bug still occurs with the 2.4.2 beta - I haven't had the field since I installed the beta even though I've restarted macOS. FWIW, an InDesign user reported they could fix the problem for ID by going to macOS Settings > Language & Region and changing the app's language from system default to a specific language. I tried that for Publisher and while it does change Publisher's language (because the system default is overridden), it didn't make Affinity's Help field appear.

Screenshot2024-03-30at8_33_01AM.png.a77737c11f31c55b24803f9d6fbced1e.png

Download a free manual for Publisher 2.4 from this forum - expanded 300-page PDF

My system: Affinity 2.4.2 for macOS Sonoma 14.4.1, MacBook Pro 14" (M1 Pro)

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I didn't have the problem with the Search field being missing in Sonoma with 2.4.0 or 2.4.1.  And it has been working fine for me.

It is missing in 2.4,2 beta, but it sounds like that may be intentional? At this point, the Help on macOS works basically like the Help on Windows, except that the Help browser on Windows uses the built-in Help files not the online Help site. I think the Windows approach is better.

Additionally, the way the current 2.4.2 beta is working removes one useful aspect of the macOS Help system. The macOS system doesn't just search the Help, it also searches the application menus, and cal let you select a menu item directly after searching for it. E.g., 

 

Screenshot 2024-03-30 at 2.40.58 PM 1.png

-- Walt
Designer, Photo, and Publisher V1 and V2 at latest retail and beta releases
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I assumed that the missing help search field was just the normal bug and not intentional. If it's intentional, I agree, we need it back because it's how we find menu commands. At least when it's working. 🙂 

Download a free manual for Publisher 2.4 from this forum - expanded 300-page PDF

My system: Affinity 2.4.2 for macOS Sonoma 14.4.1, MacBook Pro 14" (M1 Pro)

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On 3/29/2024 at 7:32 PM, loukash said:

… and it doesn't have a text search field to highlight words on the page, like browsers – and even the pathetic Apple Help app do.
Sometimes help pages are long, and the user needs to search for a keyword within the page.

 

On 3/29/2024 at 7:34 PM, loukash said:

Also, this "browser window" doesn't react to cmd-W (Close) command, even though it has focus. I wanted to close it with cmd-W and the main Affinity window was closed instead.

 

On 3/29/2024 at 8:34 PM, MikeTO said:

The new Affinity window help has a much better default font size than the Mac system help which is great butthe user can adjust Mac help with +/- while the Affinity window doesn't support this accessibility feature.

But I fully agree that the lack of a text search field and Cmd+F is a big deal, I always jump to what I want with Cmd+F.

 

On 3/30/2024 at 8:46 AM, Paul Mudditt said:

What I don't like about the web browser version is it vanishes when another app gets focus which was very unexpected.

 

On 3/30/2024 at 6:50 PM, walt.farrell said:

It is missing in 2.4,2 beta, but it sounds like that may be intentional? At this point, the Help on macOS works basically like the Help on Windows, except that the Help browser on Windows uses the built-in Help files not the online Help site. I think the Windows approach is better.

Additionally, the way the current 2.4.2 beta is working removes one useful aspect of the macOS Help system. The macOS system doesn't just search the Help, it also searches the application menus, and cal let you select a menu item directly after searching for it. E.g., 

 

On 3/30/2024 at 7:16 PM, MikeTO said:

I assumed that the missing help search field was just the normal bug and not intentional. If it's intentional, I agree, we need it back because it's how we find menu commands. At least when it's working. 🙂 

Thanks all for your comments! I just wanted to let you know that these have all been logged and with development. 

Regarding the actual missing search bar, unfortunately, that is currently to be expected due to (as I understand it) its reliance on the macOS Help Viewer. However, we are aware of this and are looking into a replacement for it!

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The testing team have agreed with the Documentation team that this change not yet ready for public release and the installed help will be returning in the next 2.4.2 beta build and the customer release. We do still have plans to move all the software help to be sourced from online content and to enrich it with videos and other improvements, but that will likely come in 2.5 or 2.6.

Thanks for your input in this thread it will go some way towards making the eventual change much better for all users

Patrick Connor
Serif Europe Ltd

"There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man. True nobility lies in being superior to your previous self."  W. L. Sheldon

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 4/3/2024 at 5:01 PM, Patrick Connor said:

We do still have plans to move all the software help to be sourced from online content and to enrich it with videos and other improvements, but that will likely come in 2.5 or 2.6.

While i fully understand the (probably) good intentions, i have seen to many apps from other vendors going to total disarray because older versions lost attention and help get totally out of sync. It really helps nobody if online help works reliably only for the bleeding edge release of the app, and provides misleading or completely wrong results for slightly non-current releases.

The help documentation is an dedicate deliverable accompanying the app releases. It s no „optional“ or „if we find time“ low priority thing. As Affinity updates UI and features in every minor update, we need a perfect fitting documentation for every minor release. The offline help can include links to additional online-only resources like videos. This is never a reason to go fully only only.

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On 4/12/2024 at 2:45 PM, NotMyFault said:

While i fully understand the (probably) good intentions, i have seen to many apps from other vendors going to total disarray because older versions lost attention and help get totally out of sync. It really helps nobody if online help works reliably only for the bleeding edge release of the app, and provides misleading or completely wrong results for slightly non-current releases.

The help documentation is an dedicate deliverable accompanying the app releases. It s no „optional“ or „if we find time“ low priority thing. As Affinity updates UI and features in every minor update, we need a perfect fitting documentation for every minor release. The offline help can include links to additional online-only resources like videos. This is never a reason to go fully only only.

In addition to these excellent points, I would also point out that if anyone is working in an area with poor or no internet connectivity, there is no reason to rob them of access to online help simply to add rich video content that is probably not as important as having a quick reference to some less familiar feature they are trying to use.

Some users may also work in an environment where they need to be disconnected from the internet for security reasons and losing access to online help would similarly mean losing access to any kind of help.

I agree that a change to online-only help is a TERRIBLE idea.  PLEASE reconsider.

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Having links to online help = Good

Having no offline help at all = Bad

Having both = Good

I get that there are benefits to having an up to date online guide on every feature, especially when it gives additional context to how they can be used. That said, I agree with fde101 that it's a bad idea to scrap offline Help. Even I as a long time user of Affinity sometimes open up the current Help guides to find simple descriptions of specific features I haven't used in a while, since they aren't always easy to find on the interface. The Help section doesn't need to be full of videos and highly descriptive tutorials for it to be useful. Just as a simple lexicon can be useful, offline Help should remain for such a purpose.

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