One question you must consider when using attachments is the type of attachment you want to use in each case. The three general types of attachments you can use, namely, package files, web pages, and URLs, have different characteristics that affect which might be more appropriate in a given situation. The following discussion provides a comparison of several aspects of the different types of attachments and a summary of their relative capabilities.
A primary consideration is the purpose of the attachment and the level of complexity of the information it must convey. For example, if an attachment provides the definition of a term, a simple, text-only web page is probably the easiest, most straightforward option. Web pages are also appropriate for presenting more complex arrangements of text and graphics, as well as for providing access to a collection of different resources from a single location through hyperlinks.
Packages allow great flexibility, because they can contain essentially any type of file. Thus, packages are the preferred option for information that is best presented in its native format, such as tabular data contained in an Excel spreadsheet or a multimedia presentation.
Finally, URL links can be used to send users directly to an Internet or intranet site or to provide such Internet-based functionality as email contact.
Another consideration is the location in which the attachment is saved, specifically, whether it is included in the Library or not. Both packages and web pages are saved as Library documents, whereas Internet or intranet sites linked as URL attachments are external to the Library. This difference can be important when you publish to Player outputs. In particular, packages and web pages are incorporated directly in your output during publishing, whereas URL attachments are always accessed from their external locations, which might be updated or removed over time. As a result, users might find a URL attachment to be missing or unavailable if, for example, the Internet address of a URL link target is changed after you create the link in your content.
Note that, for package and web page attachments, location within the Library is not important. That is, you can link from any module, section, or topic document to any package file or web page stored anywhere in the Library; the package/web page and the parent document do not need to be in the same folder. This provides great flexibility in how you organize your Library, while also allowing you to reuse your package files and web pages by linking to each one as many times as needed throughout your content.
User System Setup and Connectivity
When you publish to Player outputs, the setup and connectivity of your users' computer systems also impact your choice of attachments, especially for packages and URLs.
For packages, you should avoid any file types that your users are unlikely to be able to view directly. For example, if you link to a flowchart saved as a package file in native Microsoft Visio format but your users have neither Microsoft Visio nor the Microsoft Visio Viewer installed on their computers, they are unable to access the flowchart. A more effective approach to using the same flowchart as a package file would be to export it from Microsoft Visio in a more common format, such as a standard graphics format, for which your users are more likely to have an appropriate application. In addition to the application itself, you should also consider the version supported in your users' workplace, to ensure that it is compatible with the version in which you create the file(s).
Note: The precise appearance and behavior of package files depends on the user's computer operating system, its settings, and the settings for the Web browser on that system.
For URL attachments, the primary considerations involve connectivity, as with any other use of Internet or intranet sites. In particular, your users must be online when viewing your content to access linked URLs, and their connection speed should be sufficient for the contents of the target sites. They should also have any necessary plug-ins installed. Finally, if you plan to link to any limited-access or otherwise restricted Internet or intranet sites, you should ensure that your users have appropriate permissions or user accounts to access these sites.
In contrast to package files and URLs, web page attachments present minimal system issues. Because they are constructed in standard HTML and because they are incorporated in your published output, you can consider web pages as a reliable choice for attachments if you are uncertain of your users' setups.
File Creation and Maintenance
You create and maintain web pages entirely within the Developer using the Web Page Editor. Whenever you make and save changes to a web page, the changes are immediately reflected throughout your content wherever the web page is linked.
You also create and maintain packages in the Developer. Packages provide the advantage of allowing you to incorporate a variety of documents, in a variety of formats, into the Library. You can copy documents into a package from an external location and then edit them directly from the package.
Finally, you create and maintain URLs entirely outside the Library. This allows you to use preexisting Internet and intranet content, as well as functionality such as email, but also requires that the content be maintained separately. For example, you must ensure that the URL address of the link target does not change, in which case the site would no longer be accessible from your content. In addition, when a target site is updated, you should ensure that it remains relevant as a link from your content. Relative URLs can be used to help minimize URL link maintenance.
In general, users can access all attachment types in all Player outputs. See User System Setup and Connectivity above for certain limitations.
For each frame link, web page hyperlink, or bubble text link, users access the attachment by clicking on the link icon or hyperlinked text, respectively; the attachment always launches in a new, independent window. For each concept link, the attachment generally appears directly in the Concept pane of the Player.
You should especially consider the behavior of concept attachments in relation to package files, such as external documents and multimedia files, which you might not want to launch directly in the Concept pane. For example, you might prefer that a large graphic or detailed spreadsheet appear in its own window, rather than in the limited region of the Player's Concept pane. Alternatively, your users might prefer that a Flash animation play only when they specifically click on a link to activate it, rather than having it launch automatically in the Player when they select the document to which it is linked as the concept. In such cases, a better alternative is to use a concept link to a web page that, in turn, contains some explanatory text and a hyperlink to the desired package file. This approach provides greater control over how and when package files used as concepts are displayed.
Only three types of document outputs ever include linked attachments: the System Process Document, Training Guide, and Instructor Manual. For these three document formats, the behavior differs depending on the type of attachment and the level at which it is linked.
Therefore, if you wish to include an attachment in your document outputs, use a web page or a package graphic.
The following information summarizes various factors that you should consider in determining which type of attachment best meets your needs in a particular situation:
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