Help in Evaluating HATs

Subject: Help in Evaluating HATs
From: Klaus Nji <makaveli_0000 -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Sun, 14 Jan 2007 09:24:22 -0800 (PST)

I've been reviewing several HATs for our company. All of our documents
are currently in Word, which are then converted to PDF, a very painful

Before setting out to look for a HAT, we specified our minimum requirements as follows:

- Tool should take Word files as input with little modification required on the final content.
- Output formats required: CHM and PDF, at a minimum.
- There should be support for conditional output, at the text level. We should be able to control output text based by manipulating certain variables or attributes.
- Automation of the ouput building process should be supported. It should be possible to write some kind of batch file, which will run every night to produce the output.
- One shoule be able to customize the PDF output. At a minimum, the PDF should have compressed bookmarks.
- Support for Modular Help, where by smaller books can be amalgamated into bigger books.
- Provision for automatic indexing.
- Seamless acceptance of very large Word documents.
- Good editor.
- Active online user forum.

So far, we have looked at:

- Help & Manual (H&M)
- RoboHelp Office (RH)
- DocToHelp (D2H)
- AuthorIT (AIT)

Our opinion is as follows:

Help & Manual seems to satisfy almost all of the requirements. However, there are some unanswered questions:
- It seems to have limited support for automatic indexing and modular help.
- Word documents must be in .rtf format.
- Output from imported Word documents lose all original links. A pain to correct.
We liked the intuitive and user friendly interface H&M offerered. Most impressive was its flexible support for conditional text.

RoboHelp Office is very good as well but also had some limitations:
- Conditional text is restricted to the inclusiion and exclusion of text.
- Automating builds does not seem to be supported, or is not well documented.
- Importing large Word documents and creating PDFs seems clumsy. Heck, I have not yet been able to successfully create a PDF document.
- Uncertainty about what Adobe will do with this product.
- Relatively quiet user forum.

DocToHelp has a very good interface but like the others has its limitations:
- Editing source to making a change in a project variable requires one to open and close Word. This is not very good.
- Modular Help is not supported for printed documents.
- PDF output generation is new and offers very little flexibility.
- Relatively quiet user forum.

So, we are leaning towards D2H or H&M.

What has your experiences been with each product?

Thanks in advance.


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