Why not just use Frame? (Was RE: Robohelp vs. Doc-to-Help)

Subject: Why not just use Frame? (Was RE: Robohelp vs. Doc-to-Help)
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Wed, 25 Feb 1998 18:24:53 -0500

I echo Alexia, wholeheartedly. I keep ForeHelp around to tweak and do neat
little DLL tricks, but for the heavy lifting, we go right from Frame to
MIF2RTF to the compiler. For ninety-nine percent of all help files this
works plenty well enough. The more esoteric and playful help files need a
bit more, but there are very few of those nowadays. Most clients don't seem
to want to pay for really wonderful help files.

I know Jane Bergen has a post questioning this approach, especially
considering MIF2RTF's cost of nearly $300. But I think that criticism
ignores the quick payback from not descending to a Word add-on to do the
help file. If I can simply push a file...outta Frame...inta the
filter...inta the compiler...I've just saved myself perhaps several hours
of messing around in Word/RH/D2H. Most TW's burden companies at somewhere
from $25 to $50 per hour. It doesn't take many saved hours to pay back a
measly $300. As a contracting/consulting house, we live and die by
efficiency, and saving a few hours per project helps our bottom line a good
deal. And if the project blows up in Word and doesn't in MIF2RTF, we've
just made WAY more money!

It took us little time to learn how to use MIF2RTF, but we're mostly old
DOS and UNIX hounds here, used to running command line apps, which MIF2RTF
is. It's not pretty Windows software, for sure, but it works, and Omni's
support has been thorough, friendly, and quick as a scalded fox. We had
some Frame docs that wouldn't play nicely with the filter, but they've
proven to be mostly documents with no hope of being rendered as RTF
anyway...too many outlandish Frame tricks.

My problem with using Word add-ons isn't the add-ons; it's Word. It's
flaky, unreliable, and totally unsuited to heavy-duty documentation
demands. It's not Blue Sky or Wextech who makes it that way. EPSs choke it.
Macros might work, might not. Text disappears from the bottom of pages
without scrolling the doc down. For us, it's a dice roll to entrust tight
deadlines to such a package.

>Why don't you just author WinHelp directly in Frame?
>You can convert Frame directly to WinHelp-compatible RTF using the
>MIF2RTF tool from Omni Systems (meaning no clean-up in Word -- in fact
>you don't even need Word for this), then create/compile your Help
>project file in HCW (available for free from Microsoft). You can do
>macros, jumps, keywords, etc.
>I've used Robohelp and Forehelp. If you didn't already have Frame, I'd
>say they'd be fine. However, if you already have Frame, why buy and
>learn unnecessary tools.
>Alexia Prendergast
>Tech Pubs Manager
>Seagate Software (Durham NC USA)
>mailto:alexiap -at- seagatesoftware -dot- com

Tim Altom
Vice President, Simply Written, Inc.
317.899.5882 (voice) 317.899.5987 (fax)
FrameMaker support ForeHelp support
FrameMaker Conversions
PDF Consulting and Production
Clustar (TM) Documentation Methodology

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