RoboHelp is a leading help content authoring software available in three versions: RoboHelp Office, RoboHelp Office Pro and RoboHelp Office Pro for .Net. RoboHelp OfficePro contains extra “server-based features” and RoboHelp Office Pro for .Net contains features for integration with products developed using the Microsoft.Net framework.
This is a review of RoboHelp Office X5.
At first look, RoboHelp HTML seems like an HTML WYSWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor. But as you explore the software, you realize that it is really a very powerful and comprehensive help authoring tool with HTML editing only as a frill.
The following are few of the features that make RoboHelp such a popular help authoring tool:
Works with multiple formats
RoboHelp allows you to import your existing files from a host of formats. The latest version – X5 - supports PDF and XML formats too and also gives a wide variety of options for the output format: HTML Help files which open in the user's browser; WinHelp which opens in a separate help window – also known as CHM help files; FlashHelp – using the Flash plug-in that makes anything look cool; and others including JavaHelp – for Java projects and the latest version supports XML outputs as well. You can also get printed documentation by converting the RoboHelp project into Microsoft Word and then PDF. Although RoboHelp can be used only on a Windows platform currently, there are several output formats it supports which are platform-independent like HTML Help, Java Help, etc.
Aids Project Mangement
RoboHelp allows you to track topics which help in project management. You can mark each topic as “In Progress”, “Ready for Review” or “Complete”. In addition, you can assign a priority level and a number in hours to show either time-estimation or time used for a certain topic. You can also create a checklist for the topic defining what remains to be finished for that topic. All these status indicators can be printed as a report which can be very useful for project management meetings.
Automates Index and Glossary Creation
RoboHelp has an easy to use Keywords and Glossary generation feature which really saves time and effort. You can also add “See Also” topics by just dragging and dropping topic names.
The scripting features are also very easy to use and implement. You can create drop-down text, and hotspots and also image maps all without knowing anything about scripting.
There are many more features. A few notable ones are:
You can create styles using the WYSIWYG editor. These styles get automatically saved in the default style sheet you have linked with your topics. You can use several style sheets in a single project, although that is not a very good practice.
The RoboHelp help is comprehensive and extensive. There are tutorials, context-sensitive help, keywords, tips, video tutorials, online support and everything possible to ensure you get up and running with using RoboHelp like a pro as fast as possible.
If you prefer an HTML editor other than RoboHelp's, you have the option to use that by just letting RoboHelp know its location.
Supports multimedia (sound and video clips) to be embedded in documents.
Contains an HTML Source Editor.
Though few, there are certain shortcomings which you should be aware of as well:
You may not be able to use all the features provided in RoboHelp with all the output formats. For instance, if you choose the WinHelp output format, the DHTML effects are supported only on the Internet Explorer 4.0 (and above) browser and you cannot change the help window skins.
If you copy paste formatted text from within a browser, then the styles used in the embedded text are copied as embedded styles and your HTML code can get very messy. If you wish to copy paste text, it is better to first paste the text in a text editor like Notepad where no formatting gets copied and then copy paste the plain text to Robohelp. Now you can apply styles from your centralized style sheet.
If you want to create styles for tables, you need to edit the style sheet manually. Currently there is no method to do so using the menus. This is simple enough and if you have never seen or edited style sheets or HTML code before, it would be a good idea to learn something about it. It is easy and will pay off handsomely even while using a WYSIWYG editor like RoboHelp's.
Trivia and Useful Links
Robohelp was initially offered by EHelp Corporation which was taken over by Macromedia. Macromedia is now a part of Adobe from where we have Acrobat and Framemaker.
The latest version also supports version control and several other useful features which are not covered in this review. See http://www.adobe.com/products/robohelp/productinfo/features/ for a list of features.
Check out another RoboHelp review here: http://slostc.org/reviews/robohelp_x5_review.pdf
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