A couple of weeks ago I got a look at the new RoboHelp Packager for AIR. This enables you to create a Help executable, not unlike a .chm file for old Microsoft HTML Help, but instead of just having a package of HTML files, you have a whole Help ecosystem where you can access all kinds of content without ever leaving the confines of the AIR application.
For instance, you can include a PDF file in the help, and instead of launching the Adobe Reader, the PDF opens inside the AIR application. Same goes for Flash and even links to external web sites. The AIR packager handles it all and displays all of this content inside the AIR executable. What's more, I found the AIR packages download quickly and install in a snap.
I haven't tried the RoboHelp Packager yet to see how well it works in actual production, but I like the idea very much and it's not only practical, it's visually appealing. The initial application Adobe sent me as an example still has a few bugs, but it is still a lab application after all. One thing that's still not clear is if you will only be able to develop help for AIR applications or if you can use the packager and ship it with any application. Then of course, there are issues of how to work the context sensitive links, but this is just the beginning of the process and I'm sure Help developers will be giving plenty of feedback.
If you want to check some AIR applications out for yourself, go to the Adobe AIR Showcase and download some of the applications. I particularly liked this one from AOL, which tracks the top 100 music videos on AOL Video and enables you to find the videos you want easily by category.
AIR is an intriguing platform incorporating Flash and the Flex development environment among other elements and so far at least I like what I've seen. It will be interesting to see where this goes.
4/10/08 Follow-up: Heard from Adobe and the Help packager for AIR will work with non-AIR apps and there is an AIR Help API to connect the help system to the application and build context sensitive links in the same fashion as Web Help.