RE: Framemaker and RoboHelp

Subject: RE: Framemaker and RoboHelp
From: "Combs, Richard" <richard -dot- combs -at- Polycom -dot- com>
To: "Pamela Denchfield" <PamelaD -at- onyx -dot- com>, "Jim Barrow" <vrfour -at- verizon -dot- net>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 13 Dec 2007 14:52:32 -0700

Pamela Denchfield wrote:

> Richard, are you creating printed manuals using Adobe's suite?

Haven't even seen it, just studied the available information. Rob Houser
appears not to have really used the suite either, or he just doesn't get
it. His review of RH7 approaches it as an authoring tool, which makes
sense for a standalone review, I suppose -- many people will use RH7
(the non-suite version, anyway) as a standalone tech pubs tool. But
authoring isn't its primary role in a logical suite-based workflow.

Houser complains that content is "pushed from FrameMaker to RoboHelp
rather than allowing for shared content that is managed at a higher
project level..." But there's no need for a higher level. To make best
use of the suite, you manage the content in FM -- that's your "higher
level." You use RH like you'd use Distiller, or WebWorks Publisher, or
Mif2Go -- as a tool for creating specific types of output.

> I don't have the suite but from the earlier-referenced review
> ( by
> Rob Houser), it appears that Adobe's suite produces printed
> manuals from RH with Word, not FrameMaker.

Yeah, I see where Houser said, "Another big issue: there is no
capability for generating the printed documentation from RoboHelp in
FrameMaker. This means the main form of printed documentation supported
by RoboHelp is still Microsoft Word."

As I said, Houser views RH7 as an authoring tool -- it's probably a fine
one if you're only interested in online help. But RH _always_ sucked for
producing manuals. If you need those plus help, author in FM.

Houser claims "single-sourcing from FrameMaker to RoboHelp would
seriously restrict the quality of your help system," but he cites no
examples. I've used WebWorks and Mif2Go to generate help from FM, and
I'd be surprised if Adobe didn't make sure the suite could hold its own
against those options.

Houser really seems to want to author in RH and export to FM. I think he
and the WritersUA folks are very focused on
help-authoring/user-assistance, have used RH for years, and want the
suite to work the way they're used to working. Those of us who've spent
years working with FM no doubt have a similar prejudice for what we're
used to.

But I'm pretty certain that an objective comparison of the two tools
leads to the conclusion that Adobe did it right -- your source files
should be authored and maintained in FM, which is far superior for the
task, and RH should be an output engine.

IMHO, of course. ;-)


Richard G. Combs
Senior Technical Writer
Polycom, Inc.
richardDOTcombs AT polycomDOTcom
rgcombs AT gmailDOTcom


Create HTML or Microsoft Word content and convert to Help file formats or
printed documentation. Features include support for Windows Vista & 2007
Microsoft Office, team authoring, plus more.

True single source, conditional content, PDF export, modular help.
Help & Manual is the most powerful authoring tool for technical
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RE: Framemaker and RoboHelp: From: Pamela Denchfield

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