Re: a survey on help systems

Subject: Re: a survey on help systems
From: John Cornellier <jcornellier -at- abingdon -dot- oilfield -dot- slb -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Tue, 28 Feb 2006 16:46:51 +0000

We just did a pilot project where we used TWiki ( to develop the help. For those of you who are new to this, a TWiki is an implementation of a wiki, and a wiki is a web site that can be edited from your browser, and includes such functionality as versioning, user control, etc.

We were already using Twiki for widely for collaboration e.g rather than circulating Word documents around with ammendments and whatnot, everyone edits a page on the wiki.

So we actually wrote the help system in Twiki, as series of web pages. It was quite successful in terms of getting input from the software engineers. People appreciated having a pretty reasonable preview of what the CHM would be like in terms of structure and appearance. The only downside is that the editing environment is a bit primitive, but then our doc doesn't have much formatting. Also no equation editor.

Once the content was finalised, we ran some scripts and output the wiki into a series of interlinked HTML files, which then were compiled into a CHM.

We have another projects using D2H or RH. On the positive side, people can edit in Word, which is not a challenge to them, but the negative side is that someone editing an indiviual doc can't get a picture of the whole help system. I have never been too much in favour of that workflow as it puts too much ownership of the authoring process in the hands of the techwriters. IMO the tech writer should be able to share authoring, while owning the publishing side of things.

That said, we have another project where we're deploying XMetal + DITA + MathFlow + FOP and that does require a steep price of entry to do editing. So there we're hoping to deploy a "lite" editing interface using a smaller & cheaper XML editor (oXygen? XML SPy?)

John Cornellier

A.H. wrote:

Hey whirlers,

We used RoboHelp X5 to create our last help file and
are thinking of moving away from the traditional help
file and more towards help in which users can participate. We use Confluence, the enterprise wiki
software from Atlassian, and were thinking of opening
up Confluence to house our end user and developer
What are people using to create help files these
days? Custom stuff or off the shelf Robohelp, Madcap,

WebWorks ePublisher Pro for Word features support for every major Help
format plus PDF, HTML and more. Flexible, precise, and efficient content delivery. Try it today!.
Doc-To-Help includes a one-click RoboHelp project converter. It's that easy. Watch the demo at

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a survey on help systems: From: A.H.

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