Help Authoring Tools Summary (LONG - Part 3)

Subject: Help Authoring Tools Summary (LONG - Part 3)
From: "Marilyn Baldwin (mlbb -at- capgroup -dot- com)" <Marilyn_Baldwin -at- CAPGROUP -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 29 Apr 1998 07:53:08 -0700

ForeHelp has been terrific. Our company has been on it for almost two
years. We evaluated many tools, narrowing down to Robohelp, ForeHelp,
and HelpBreeze. It was pretty much consensus that ForeHelp was the best,
fastest, easiest, and with the smallest learning curve. I've done the
internal support, designed the internal templates. It does everything
we've wanted.
- Doug Brook

ForeHelp is a fantastic tool. Has been helping us produce superb help
for a variety of clients over the past four years. Easy to use, well
thought out. Biggest drawbacks so far? 1) It keeps its topics in pure
alphabetic order. To get around this so that we can keep related topics
together, we add a prefix to each topic name (e.g., Dialog:, Field:,
Definition:) 2) RTF generated by the program could not be digested by
RoboHelp in one instance. (We were using ForeHelp; the client wanted to
maintain the finished file in
RoboHelp.) I don't remember what the work-around was.
- Ann Fothergill-Brown

I use Forehelp and love it. You rarely see people writing about
problems with it. My theory is they don't have problems. I develop
help for Windows 3.1, Windows 95 and both for transfer to Unix to be
compiled in Hyperhelp. I also output an HTML version. Forehelp handles
all without difficulty.
- Jill Burgchardt

I have used ForeHelp in the past and have found it to be a very user
friendly tool for creating straightforward help files. I don't run lots
of dlls or special graphics or anything, so it has worked great for me.
We began using it because we were not a Word shop. ForeHelp imports rtf
really well (though I haven't tried Frame's rtf yet - we're in the
process of moving from Ami Pro to Frame). You can also cut and paste to
ForeHelp from existing docs if you want to share info that way. It uses
a database for containing information and provides point and click tools
for just about everything you want to do. I believe you can still
download a demo version (fully featured, but limited number of topics)
- Mike Hiatt

Although you haven't mentioned it, we use HDK. I have found this to
very easy to use & the supprt department is very helpful on the few
occassions I've needed them.
- Suzanne Kuilder

You might want to have a quick look at Virtual Media's HDK (Hypertext
Development Kit). I've been using it for nearly 4 years now without too
many problems (well it is software!). Generally more orientated towards
writers while ones like Robohelp seem to be more programmer orientated.
- Damien Branif

If you haven't already, check into HelpBreeze from SolutionSoft in
California. It's easy to learn and use, and has some nice features. I
like it. (They also have HTML conversion software now.) They also have a
downloadable demo that you might like to try. No, I don't get any
commission for this. :) I just like their product.
- Judy Fraser

I am a new help author: my first online help project was just sent to
our first alpha customer. So, not too long ago, I went thru' the same
search as you're doing.
-- I downloaded every trail/eval version of a HAT that I could.
-- I got the Zubak/Deacon book (Designing Windows 95 Help) and read
the chapter on choosing a tool.
-- I found every resource on the web that I could (there's an
incredible amount!) and spent lots of time reading.
My results...
HAT's divide into 2 basic types: a MS Word add-on or a standalone (no
Word involved). Since I'm a long-time Word user (10 years), I went the
add-on route. I selected HelpBreeze, from Solutionsoft, for this
reason: they provided a trial version and RoboHelp did not. (The
RoboHelp policy is a money back guarantee. That doesn't work in a
corporate environment, where making purchases requires justification,
paperwork, signatures, and too much of my time!)
I also chose HelpBreeze since their support of help-to-paper seemed
better than any one else's, and I thought I might be doing that.
I am very happy with HelpBreeze-I've had NO problems-but I'll say this:
(a) I can't say that I've tested it "to the limits" because my help
project is pretty basic.
(b) The company appears to be dead, or at least hibernating.
1. Unlike WexTech and Blue Sky, no one from Solutionsoft monitors this
list (at least, no one from there ever answers any questions on the
2. The web site has had no new information since I started looking at
their site. They do have a version of HelpBreeze for Word97, which
works just fine, so that's--what? a year or more old. No other new
versions, no notice of upcoming new versions, nada.
3. The web site makes mention of their an HTMLHelp product (an add-on to
regular HelpBreeze), but it isn't. It just makes HTML files, without
the integration into MS HTMLHelp (it doesn't make .chm files for
example). At least, last time I looked at it.
I can't say anything about their tech support, since I've never needed
to call. That says something good about the product: it works well.
I do wish their web site had more support: both BlueSky and WexTech have
more resources, tips and actual answers. I often surf to those places to
look for some answers!
So there you have it! A completely qualified, weak endorsement of
Here's another thought: if I could make the decision over, or could
justify the $$ to switch, I'd move to ForeHelp: this is not a Word
add-on, but a WYSIWYG HAT. I found near the end of the project that I
was compiling constantly, so I could run the help and see exactly what
the user would be seeing. I'd then adjust text, split topics,
add/subtract graphics, etc, and compile again. For a new help author,
being able to see what the user would see is a benefit.
There you have it. I'd better get to work! Hope that helps.
- Jessica N. Lange

RoboHELP 5.5. We've used it for 4 fairly complicated products and I've
had minimal problems with it. I know there are many out there using it
who have problems all the time. I just can't say that I'm one of them.
It's been great. Learning it took about a month. I took a training
class, but the instructor was not the best, so I've mostly taught
myself. I highly recommend it.
- Dorothy Parnian

We have been using RoboHelp for about a year. RoboHelp is a powerful
tool that is relatively easy to use, but we have experienced extensive
problems saving RoboHelp files over a network. We have lost a lot of
work over this. When we switched from Windows 95 to NT, these problems
went away for the most part, but then came back when we got the latest
version of RoboHelp. I don't know how common this is. It may be
something specific to our network setup. We've called technical support
multiple times and were never able to get a solution. Their technical
support, by the way, leaves a lot to be desired.
- Heather Stehney

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