RE: Web help tools - review

Subject: RE: Web help tools - review
From: William Swallow <William -dot- Swallow -at- aptissoftware -dot- com>
To: "'techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com'" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 9 Mar 2000 14:47:13 -0500

I've been assigned to document all our systems and products and publish the
documents on our intranet. These documents will be a combination of
reference material, How-to and policy/procedure. It's a huge assignment
which I can do manually but I'd like to know how others have used the
available HATs (HTML Help, WebHelp, Forehelp Pro, etc.) to perform a similar
task. A breakdown of PROs and CONs would be appreciated. I'll publish the
summary of all responses back to the list.

Uh huh. I could tell you all about everything I do and use to do this and it
may or may not help you at all. You failed to mention a few key ingredients
to narrow your responses down to something useful:

1) What tools you use/know how to use

2) What the docs are currently written in

3) What sort of timeframe you have to work with

4) What kind of docs you're working with

Anyhoo... what you were looking for... Here's the skinny on what we do:

We write technical end-user documentation for telecom billing and rating
software. Our books are big and there are lots of them. We write in
FrameMaker because in our opinion it's the most efficient tool for this type
of work. When we publish to the Web, we use Adobe Acrobat to bang out PDFs
for the print-friendly pulpit and use WebWorks Publisher for the
online-means-online pulpit. By sticking to rigid templates and style across
the board, we're able to single-source all of our documentation in a timely
and painless manner.

Sure, we looked into many tools. We decided against RoboHelp, Doc-to-Help
and other Word-based HATs because... well... we don't use Word (and the
whole save-as-RTF-from-Frame thing is a big headache that we would rather do
without). We decided against ForeHelp because it couldn't import MIF. Now it
can, but from what I've heard from others, it's not as slick a solution as
other Frame-based tools.

When we're not single-sourcing, AND when we're working for the Web only, we
use Dreamweaver (not just because it has a really cool name... else we would
have chosen Cold Fusion). DW is a great Web building tool and it's fairly
easy on the wallet (under $400.00).

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