Help authoring tools (long)

Subject: Help authoring tools (long)
From: Emily Skarzenski <71220 -dot- 341 -at- COMPUSERVE -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 19 Apr 1995 11:06:52 EDT

Okay, I'll jump into this one from the RoboHelp side of the tracks.

I've never used ForeHelp, but I do know it's a *standalone* tool (meaning that
it doesn't work on top of a word processor). And although I have a long list of
peeves regarding MS Word, I have to say that Word/RoboHelp must be better than
ForeHelp because of the word processing features.

Does ForeHelp let you use styles? Since Word supports them fully, I'm able to
use them rigorously in RoboHelp. Using styles saves me bundles of time, is great
for standardizing formats across a group of writers, and lets me set up a format
that looks truly professional (try changing paragraph spacing one paragraph at a
time in a 300-topic help system and you'll understand!). Another feature I use
extensively is (search-and-) Replace. Since it will search for styles and other
formatting, you can use it for lots of nontraditional search-and-replace jobs if
you're a little creative. This is another *big* time saver for otherwise
repetitive tasks.

Another feature that seems to be painfully lacking in most standalone packages
is Undo. I used to use Help Magician (a standalone tool); one time, when I
called tech support and asked if they were planning to add an Undo feature to
their next release (which is the one that's out now), they said, "No! Do you
know how much work it is to program that kind of thing?" Yike! I *milk* Undo and
wouldn't want to have to do without it. As I understand it, ForeHelp's Undo
works on the current topic only; Word 6 has many-many-many levels of Undo.

Of course, RoboHelp has drawbacks, too. In some ways, it's quirky and difficult.
(The brand-new version [3.0] is still shrink-wrapped on my desk--haven't had
time to upgrade yet, and it may fix some quirks.) But my group consistently
produces big online Help systems (200-500 topics) in no time flat, and I can't
imagine getting the job done without advanced word processing features. I'll
stick with RoboHelp.

Emily Skarzenski
Head Technical Writer
Fastech, Inc. - Broomall, PA
71220 -dot- 341 -at- compuserve -dot- com


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