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Subject:HelpBreeze/ForeHelp summary From:bkane -at- ARTISOFT -dot- COM Date:Mon, 16 Dec 1996 16:24:30 MTN
Last week I asked if anyone had experience with HelpBreeze Help
authoring software. There were only three answers, so I'll paste all
three in here for those interested (even though ForeHelp turned out to
be the primary focus):
I have used HelpBreeze 1.6 and Robohelp 2.6, neither of them
extensively. In both cases I had about half a day to learn enough to
make changes to, and clean up, some existing files.
I did not see much difference between the two products, either in what
they did or how one used them to do it. Both were fairly easy to learn
and use (for text; I wasn't creating hot spots or anything fancy).
Problems appeared to be due to the Windows Help compiler, not the
I haven't had a chance to try out the new versions, though I would
As part of a help tools evaluation I performed for my company last
summer I used HB, RoboHelp, and ForeHelp to construct a mini-help
system for our application. I was favorably impressed to the extent
that I recommended that we purchase and use it for our operation. Let
me explain why we chose it. Our existing help system consists of ~5000
topics in ~125 rtf files that live on a server and are worked on by a
team of seven writers, so we needed an application that was adapatable
to our environmnet. Since each of us doesn't have all the files on our
hard drive, we need the ability to manually enter links to topics in
files other that the one being worked on locally. ForeHelp absolutely
prohibits this. Since our system is so large, we need all the
assistance we can get.
HelpBreeze's "syntax coloring" feature, which colors links and bitmap
references differently on-screen was useful.
I didn't include reporting (provided by ForeHelp) as useful in my
evaluation because our system is too large to use the kind of reports
generated by FH, and we have a reporting tool developed in-house.
The single largest factor the tilted the balance away from RoboHelp
(which seems almost identical in features and functionality) was
technical support. I placed phone calls and sent emails to Blue Sky
Software (the makers of RH) and received no responce for two weeks! My
emails to SolutionSoft were answered the same day as they were sent. I
have spoken to the Tech Support manager at Blue Sky, and he assures me
that "we're getting better..."
Feel free to contact me if you would like a more detailed description
of my evaluation criteria or results.
I can't vouch for HelpBreeze, as I've never used it. However, I would like
to put in a plug for ForeHelp, which I've done several WinHelp projects on.
First, I subscribe to the Windows Help list. I'd say that Big Three Windows
Help authoring programs are RoboHelp, Doc-to-Help and ForeHelp. Unlike
RoboHelp and D2H, ForeHelp is not tied to MS Word. A lot of the problems in
the Word-based products are due to Word problems. In my view, you're just
adding another layer of complexity (acutally, two: Word itself, and the
WordBasic macros that make the stuff work) to an already complex situation.
If HelpBreeze is another Word front end, I wouldn't recommend it.
ForeHelp writes directly to the RTF file. Of the others, it's screen output
is closest to what your Help file will look like. It has its own style
management set, and it supports all WinHelp features. It has been coded
well (i.e., behaves about as well as you can expect from any Windows
program). You can do both Win 3.1 and Win95 projects, or exclude one or the
other. It also has some good Tools, such as a Navigator that lets you see
your links per jumps and browse sequences (very handy when your project
starts growing). Decent spell checker, search and replace tools, even a
Thesarus. It also has a feature that will generate a "manual-type" RTF file
for hard copy, a useful proofreading tool.
Of the Big Three, ForeHelp has the least number of "problem" topics on the
WinHelp list. I get the digest, and at least once a day, the RoboHelp guy
has to chime in with his fixes, excuses and Word-blaming. The D2H guy,
maybe 2-3 times a week. The ForeHelp guy rarely needs to fix a ForeHelp
problem, but he does check in from time to time with some useful insights,
usually macro or RTF stuff. I do see some HelpBreeze topics on the list,
but not many, which leads me to believe that it is not used that often.
I stand nothing to gain from this plug other than passing on my
satisifaction with a good software tool.