Re: HAT recommendations

Subject: Re: HAT recommendations
From: "Saunders, Ian" <ISaunders -at- enghouseglobal -dot- com>
To: "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 23 Feb 2011 07:59:53 +0000

Hi Michelle,

My team has also been looking at whether we want to go for RoboHelp 9 or Flare 6 (we use RoboHelp 7), and we have spent quite a few weeks evaluating our options.

I think it is important to realise that Flare is not just a HAT, it is a tool for single-sourcing: multiple outputs from one "repository". To use it purely as a HAT is not really making the most of it. That said, I'm sure many people do just that, because re-purposing existing material for proper single-sourcing can be a huge task.

The other thing to remember is that RoboHelp and FrameMaker are available in a more integrated form as the Adobe Tech Comms Suite (TCS3 is the latest version, which includes Frame 10). If you are already using FrameMaker, it might be a better idea to change to TCS than to go for the latest, unintegrated versions of RoboHelp and Frame. You also get several other Adobe "goodies" in the TCS package, including the latest version of Acrobat.

In TCS, you can author your help in Frame (making use of all its content re-use capabilities) or in RoboHelp. With Flare, the "ideal" scenario is that you author everything in Flare: CHM, PDF, etc., although it is easy to use it to produce Help from FrameMaker documents, rather like the all-Adobe set-up. To more closely match TCS's capabilities, Flare also enables you to create FrameMaker documents from its XML-based source files. (On this point, it may be worth noting that Flare's repository is XML-based, while Frame uses a proprietary binary format for its files that you cannot search or edit using text-based tools. Of course, if you create your help in RoboHelp, rather than importing Frame files into that tool, then this is not an issue, since RoboHelp source files are HTML).

Is cost a consideration for you? Although TCS is more expensive than Flare, if you intend to continue using FrameMaker (and Acrobat, etc.), it is cheaper to upgrade TCS than it is to upgrade RoboHelp and FrameMaker separately.

I think Flare is a better HAT than RoboHelp, but it is more complicated to set up and use (partly because it is a single-sourcing tool, and not just a HAT). However, RoboHelp 9 appears to include several of the features that made Flare better than previous versions (e.g. multiple CSS in a topic, better integration with review tool, projects sharing files across a network). So, if you intend to continue authoring in FrameMaker anyway, you might find that moving to TCS is your best option. Also, no tool is without its "little problems" and learning curves. Maybe "the devil you know" is a safer bet than the one you don't?

I hope this helps!


Ian Saunders
Documentation Manager (UK)
Enghouse Global

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