Responses to my request for Tabmaker/Robohelp 96 info

Subject: Responses to my request for Tabmaker/Robohelp 96 info
From: "I started out with nothing. I still have most of it left." <sharona -at- INTRANET -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 12 Nov 1996 10:02:05 EST

As promised, here is the feedback I've received via email on using Tabmaker
with RoboHelp 95. Thanks to all for your testimonials, and thanks
especially for all the correspondence from Al Sim of SimDoc.

We are now going to evaluate its use for our monster online help
project that begins in Jan.


Sharona Nelson
sharona -at- intranet -dot- com


We've been using Tabmaker for a few months now.

Basically, it is a utility that lets you create tabs for topics, and
string them together. It creates the .SHG and .BMP files, which you
include in the help system. You could create tabs using SHED, but it's a
lot easier with Tabmaker.

Since it creates .SHG files, you can use it with any help authoring tool.

To remove a tabset, simply remove the appropriate .SHG from your help


bmcdanel -at- sensormatic-vpd -dot- com



I have used Tabmaker successfully in a RH95/NT3.51 environment. I thought it
was easy to use and fit well in my help (users loved it). All it does is
automate the creation of .SHG files which you insert in the non-scrolling
regions of your topics, so it would be easy to remove. A great navigational
tool and solves a good deal of the problem of getting lost in hyperspace.

Ed Hess
ed -dot- hess -at- smed -dot- com


Hi Sharon. I have used Tabmaker (I'm still waiting for my licensed copy
to arrive) and liked it very much. All that Tabmaker does is create a
series of SHGs with hotspots on them. Of course, since it would be
incredibly tedious to do this in Paintbrush, it actually does quite a
bit! So it doesn't really matter which authoring tool you are using. If
you want to see an example of a help system with the tabs, download
Paintshop Pro from JASC software; Allen Sim wrote Tabmaker to help him
create the tabs in their help.

When I first started messing around with it, I had a little trouble
conceptually with what to do with the graphics. You do still need to
create one topic for each tab; you will probably want to make the title
text the same so that the user won't realize the entire topic is being
replaced. Let me know if you need additional clarification.

What you want to be careful about is the number of tabs and the length
of the tab names. The tabs all have to be the same length. Since the
tabs are actually a graphic, the graphic won't wrap if the window size
changes. You need to make sure that you don't have too many tabs to fit
in the window size you want. The latest version of Tabmaker lets you
create tabs with little arrows at the end of a row. These tabs are
supposed to indicate to the user that there are additional tabs that are
not displayed. I'm not sure that users will know this without being
told. I would prefer to stack several banks of tabs somehow, but I
haven't had the opportunity to figure out how much work this will be.

I can think of several ways in which you might use the tabs. One of them
is to create a standard set of tabs for each window/dialog box. One tab
labeled Description, one labeled Fields, one labeled How Tos, and one
labeled Picture. The title of each of these topics would show as the
name of the dialog. The first tab the user would see is the Description
tab. I thought that this organization would reduce the amount of
scrolling, and would let the user zoom right in on the information he

I have also thought of using the tabs to duplicate a tabbed dialog box
in an application. I could create one tab in the help for each tab on
the dialog box. This seemed to me to leverage off of the user's
experience with the application.

I also have created a prototype for a help system for a reporting tool
where we wanted to describe the different clinical information in the
report. The clinical info was divided into categories, so I created one
tab for each category. Again, dividing things up this way eliminated a
lot of scrolling, and it gave the user a quick overview of the
information that was available.

I have found that it takes some extra time and organizational skills to
make this work. You are going to have topics that appear the same when
you look at the titles, and the SHGs don't have the most obvious names,
so you should expect to spend some time, especially when you start,
figuring out which tab is the active one in each graphic. Once I got the
hang of it, it wasn't too bad.

Sorry for the brain dump; I just got in to the office, and replying to
mail seems to get my brain geared up! Email me if you have any
questions, and I will try to help.

vjachimo -at- omicron -dot- com
Hi Sharona.

Although I develop primarily for winhelp 3.1, I do use Robohelp 95. I wasn't
really clear if you were developing for 3.1 or 4.0. For one particular
project on which I used Tabmaker extensively, I did convert it to winhelp
4.0 although we ultimately went

I went through more hoops on this help file (not because of any of the
development tools). I compiled it for WinHelp 3.1 and WinHelp 4.0, I worked
on it on a NT 3.51 and NT 4.0 machine, and my writers changed their minds
about 900 times. Tabmaker was a

The final coup de grace was when the clients, after seeing it days earlier
in a pilot, decided the day before we were supposed to ship that they wanted
the arrows--not the tabs themselves--that indicate you have two screens of
tabs to be a different color

I will cheerfully sing my praises of this product for the apparent
robustness, ease of use under a stressful tight deadline, and the incredible
customer support.


Hi, Sharona,

We've been using TabMaker for some months with RoboHelp 95 in Windows 3.x help
files. Our users have responded very favorably, and we've found it a slick and
reliable utility. When our products go 32-bit in the spring, we plan to continue
using it for context-sensitive tab sets.

Some authors use the TabMaker hypergraphic sets as organizing tools. For
example, a tab set might include "Overview," "Procedure," "Related Topics" or
whatever (see PaintShop Pro, the help system Allen Sim built TabMaker for). Our
software interface includes numerous tab sets. For example, there's a four-tab
set, all related to formatting your reports and choosing your report and graph
options. The tab set is named Page Setup and the tabs are General, Graphics,
Fonts, and Layout. We've used TabMaker to mimic the UI's tab set in the
nonscrolling region. This has made context-sensitive help more navigable and
our testers reported that they were better able to keep track.

What we've wrestled with, though, is the changing WinHelp paradigm. TabMaker
tabs are suited ideally for inclusion in the nonscrolling region. However,
Microsoft's model is veering sharply away from the use of nonscrolling regions.
So we've been debating whether to "follow MS" because it's what our users may
expect or whether to do what we, professional communicators, think is best. (I'm
opting for the latter).

>Is it easy to use?
VERY. What's more, if the IDs change (oh, programmers never change a resource
ID :-))), TabMaker's visual UI to the context IDs in your .RTF makes updates
very efficient.

>Does it fit well with the rest of your help system?
Yes, because we only use it in the context-sensitive topics and where the UI
itself has the same tabs.

>Can you easily remove the tabbed material if you decide to do that at some
future date?
Yes. You're only removing a {bm? ????.shg} line, so that's easy.

If you have other questions, please send them via return e-mail. Hope this


Lisa Pappas
Lisa Pappas
Mobius Group, Inc.
68 T.W. Alexander Drive
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709
(919) 549-0444


I saw Charlie Munro's response to your request for feedback. He was wrong
on one point: the macros in the Word Edition of TabMaker are compatible with
Word 7.

Al Sim / SimDoc

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