Adobe, Help Me (if you can)

by James Cook on June 27, 2011

How to open Adobe Help in your Browser

Like the Beatles, "I'm feelin' down…" And this tweet from John Olson pretty much sums it up.

I dont think I can be anymore clear on how much I hate the Adobe help system. Adobe Community Help app BLOWS! Give me html help back plz


John Olson

I’m a fan of Adobe’s Dreamweaver documentation and often recommend it to students. However, Adobe’s system for delivering that documentation through an AIR-based* Help application (or as Adobe likes to call it Adobe Community Help) is at best annoying and at worst almost unusable**. So I was glad to learn from Rick Stone that it was a simple task to turn off some of the most annoying Help “features” or to bypass Help entirely and simply view the documentation in your browser.

The solution is simple, but since I’m not use to thinking of the help system as an application separate from the program it supports, I overlooked it and I suspect a lot of other people will as well. Here’s what you need to know.

Adobe Help preferences

As a stand-alone application, Help has it’s own preferences that you can access from within Help by choosing the Preferences item under the Adobe Help menu. To start Help choose [Program Name] Help from the Help menu of any Adobe Creative Suite application. You can also open Help directly from the following locations (assuming you installed your programs in the default location):

  • Windows: C:\Program Files (x86)\Adobe\Adobe Help\Adobe Help.exe
  • Mac OS X: User Name/Applications/Adobe/Adobe

The Settings:

There are a number of Preference tabs and, if you are sincerely committed to using Adobe Community Help, you can explore them. The only one I’m interested is the General Settings tab.

Adobe Help Preferences

I recommend that, under Accessibility Mode you select the Open Help in browser application option. The next time you choose the Help option within an Adobe program, the appropriate page from Adobe’s online documentation will launch in your browser.

It's really that simple and it improves the usability of Adobe's documentation immensely.

*AIR, as I understand it, stands for Rich Internet Applications only backwards. According to Adobe it enables “developers to use HTML, JavaScript, Adobe Flash® and Flex technologies, and ActionScript® to build web applications that run as standalone client applications without the constraints of a browser.”

**The most annoying “feature” of Help is that you are constantly being prompted to update AIR, update Adobe Community Help (which requires the program to restart), update the Local content or, as was the case when I last tried to use it, all three. You can control these settings to some degree using the Download, Updater and Local Content tabs in the preferences panels but the options are confusing and I’m not going to go into them here.

The other truly annoying “feature” is that closing the Help window quits the program and you are forced through another launch (and potential update) cycle the next time you want to use Help. Since most people have a browser open almost constantly, launching Help in the browser avoids this issue (and, in any case, a browser will load more quickly than Adobe’s Help application).

Let me know what you think

I’m interested in hearing your opinions of Adobe’s Community Help, pro or con, along with any tips you might have for navigating the Adobe Help maze. So please drop me a note using the comment form at the end of this post.

Mark Nichoson July 11, 2011 at 11:40 am

Hi: I am the product manager for the Help application at Adobe. Thanks very much for your feedback. The engineering team has completely revamped the update and notification experience in our latest version, v.3.5. We have removed the pop-up dialog box and migrated the “content update” notification to the footer of the app as well as the homescreen. This ensures an uninterrupted workflow for users who simply want to access content first and foremost. Similar to the changes in the local content download experience, we have also revamped the update experience for the application itself! Going forward, app updates will be downloaded in the background without interruption to the user workflow (similar to Google Chrome).

We have also worked hard to increase performance, especially for the initial start-up. A full list of the new features in version 3.5 is available here:

You may also leave comments or other additional feedback at the forum link above. To update your app, simply open the Community Help application from your hard disc or visit our download page on

dwcourse July 11, 2011 at 11:44 am

Mark, thanks for taking the time to jump in here. I’m going to turn the help application back on and see how the changes work. I’ll post my thoughts here.

Heiner Strentzsch June 30, 2011 at 8:58 pm

There are two things, about this help system, that i don’t like: it takes too much time for starting AND missing the seperated table of content on the left side. Only search on the left, results are not always the right way. I miss these old days, where printed manuals were be usual, of course as a free item of the expensive software. Now the prices are not better at all, but printed manuals are a fairytale now and the packaging of the software is going to be cheaper with every new release!

dwcourse July 13, 2011 at 6:02 pm

Heiner, since the update Mark mentioned, it does seem to load quite a bit faster and without all the annoying update warnings.

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