RE: help authoring tools

Subject: RE: help authoring tools
From: Fred Ridder <docudoc -at- hotmail -dot- com>
To: Melissa London <maia_ms -at- msn -dot- com>, "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 19 Sep 2007 14:14:36 -0400

maia_ms -at- msn -dot- com asked:
> I'm looking for a free or low-cost solution for creating a CHM file
> of a style guide. Pretty basic stuff: terminology list, short
> informational topics (like Help), links to other resources. That's
> about it.
> > Any suggestions? (RoboHelp is wonderful but too pricey.)

All help-authoring application software ultimately uses the
same tool to actually produce the CHM file, namely the
Microsoft HTML Help Compiler, which is part of the free
HTML Help Authoring Workshop. It is possible (although
not necessarily recommended) to do all the authoring and
organization of your information using nothing more than
a plain text editor the tools in the MS Workshop. That's
zero expenditure for tools, although it is not necessarily
the lowest cost solution once you factor in the long
learning curve for this low-level development environment.

What you get by buying a commercial HAT is a lot of
convenience funcations, a (theoretically) shortened learning
curve, and the ability to prepare the same content for
multiple deliverable formats (e.g. WinHelp, HTML Help,
cross-platform HTML, some flavor of web-based help,
and maybe even print). How much you need those
additional outputs formats and how much you value the
time you'll save with a HAT should be the determiners
in what is a reasonable price for the tool.

Also note that what form your source material is in (e.g.
MS Word Doc file or FrameMaker book) can have a major
effect on what HAT options are available to you.

-Fred Ridder

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help authoring tools: From: Melissa London

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