TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
In a previous message, Franz Steiner asked about a tool that will allow you
to reuse document components for multiple variants of a manual in Help
files. This reply deals with the On-line Help component only.
At NIVA Inc., we use ForeHelp 2.0 to create help files. ForeHelp allows you
to easily build and compile a help file from selected topics.
You first make sure that ForeHelp stores each set of related topics in a
separate Rich Text Format (RTF) file. At compile time, ForeHelp allows you
to specify which RTF files to include in the build and compile procedure.
By selectively omitting certain files, your help file will not include the
topics included in those files.
Of course, this method may result in broken links (links that do not have a
valid destination) in the final help file. For example, if Topic 1 in
FILE1.RTF links to Topic 2 in FILE2.RTF, and you do not include FILE2.RTF,
then Topic 1 will contain a broken link. ForeHelp reports on broken links
during the build operation, so there is little chance of a broken link
getting into the final help file. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as
a conditional link. One possible solution may be to use a ForeHelp topic
alias, so that a similar topic in FILE1.RTF is accessed by the link when
FILE2.RTF is not included. Otherwise, you may just need to remove broken links.
Without ForeHelp, you can create separate help project (HPJ) files that list
different combinations of RTF files. You'll probably miss having the
automation and error checking built in to ForeHelp, though, and, depending
on the nature of the project, you may find it difficult to maintain multiple
ForeHelp will import existing help projects. It reads the HPJ file and
imports all RTF files that it references. We have had little problem
importing past projects that we created in WordPerfect 5.1, Word 2.0, Word
6.0, and RoboHelp. (You probably don't believe that we created help files
in WordPerfect 5.1, but we found a way.)
I would be happy to answer any specific questions you may have.