Online Help Tools -- RoboHelp Critique

Subject: Online Help Tools -- RoboHelp Critique
From: Kim Fawcett <kfawcett -at- DY4 -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 2 Oct 1995 11:31:00 DST

>Would someone(s) recommend a/some tools, and provide a brief
>critique, including strenghts/weaknesses?

Hi. I've been using RoboHelp for over a year now, and here's MHO:

RoboHelp is great if you're converting an existing document, and you
have little or no time to learn how to create online help. If you
haven't moved to Windows '95 yet, then the Blue Sky WinHelp
package (which includes RoboHelp) is a good buy just for the Full
Text Search and Hyperviewer add-ons.

RoboHelp tends to crash (LOTS) if you're working on a large document
(i.e. more than 150 printed pages). I'm not talking about a simple
program hang either -- when RoboHelp goes, it almost always takes
Windows and everything else with it. You can switch compilers, but
even that has limits. With the help system I'm working on now, the
situation got so bad that my company actually had to buy me a new
computer with tons of memory (oh yes, you *must* have memory to
spare). I had far more than the RoboHelp manual recommended to
start with, but it wasn't enough. With my extra memory, I can now
compile, but it still hangs every third or fourth try. *Very* frustrating.

I only have one other big complaint about RoboHelp -- its interface gets
in the way once you know your way around. For example, when I convert
a document, I have to go back and insert keywords for each topic. Fair
enough. Just click on the EditTopic button, click once in the Keywords
box, type in the keywords, click OK, wait while RoboHelp modifies the
document's footnotes, then continue. This process takes maybe a
minute, with anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds of that time spent waiting
for the dialog box to pop up, and for RoboHelp to modify the footnotes
(the time depends on the size of the document). Now imagine a large
document, like the ones I work with. I can easily have upwards of 600
topics. Assuming 30 seconds per topic spent waiting for RoboHelp to
work, I waste a grand total of 5 hours. And if I make a mistake....[groan]

My point about the interface is this -- it isn't really necessary. All that
time spent waiting can be avoided by switching on the footnotes,
and entering your keywords manually. "Manually" sends a lot of
people running, but in this case it's faster. In fact, when you're using
RoboHelp with large documents, I've found it's *usually* faster to do
your coding manually. The interface slows you down.

Sorry to rant on about those two disadvantages -- it's just that they've
cost me a lot of time and mental anguish. The advantages I listed
initially make up for a lot of the trouble I've had. (I didn't go into them
in detail because RoboHelp's advertising material does just that.)
RoboHelp's a good program in general, but if you're going to be
dealing with large files, you might want to see what else is on the

Good luck,
Kim Fawcett
(kfawcett -at- dy4 -dot- com)

The above opinions are mine alone, and in no way reflect the policies of
my company.

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