WebWorks Publisher vs. RoboHelp

Subject: WebWorks Publisher vs. RoboHelp
From: Sarah O'Keefe <okeefe -at- SCRIPTORIUM -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 15 Sep 1998 14:55:34 -0400

(crossposted to framers and techwr-l)

I recently received an offlist query about the merits of WebWorks Publisher
and RoboHelp. I ended up writing a rather detailed comparison, which I
thought might be useful to others on these lists, since WWP has been a
major topic of discussion recently.

I should probably state my biases up front:

* I've used RoboHelp and don't like it much.
* I've done a lot of work with WebWorks Publisher and know about MIF2RTF
only by word of mouth.
* I'm listed on Quadralay's web site as a WebWorks Publisher training
provider (which is how this whole discussion started)
* I'm a FrameMaker trainer.

So here it is....

>...is WebWorks Publisher the software we need versus
>Robo Help?

That is the burning question. And unfortunately, it's not easy to answer.

RoboHelp runs on top of Word. It lets you develop various flavors of online

WebWorks Publisher is a stand-alone application that integrates with
FrameMaker (through the FM API). WWP lets you convert FM files to various
flavors of online help, as well.

A third alternative, MIF2RTF, is also worth a look.

Now, let's say you have documentation developed for print that's in
FrameMaker. You want to use this documentation as the source for your
online help.

With RoboHelp

You export your FrameMaker files to RTF. You import the RTF into
Word/RoboHelp. During this process, some formatting and all links are lost.
You reformat, reimport graphics as needed, rebuild links, and compile your
help file.

When you make changes to the FrameMaker files, those changes have to be
transferred to the Word/RoboHelp files. You can either re-export the
information (tedious) or make the changes directly in the Word/RH files
(which means maintaining two sets of information).

RoboHelp is not a bad tool, but coordinating your information between
RoboHelp and FrameMaker is not easy.

With WebWorks Publisher

You modify your FrameMaker files so that they accommodate both your printed
docs and your online help. For example, you'd probably use conditional text
to identify text that you want only in your printed docs and text that you
want only in your online help.

In WWP, you map the FrameMaker elements (paragraph tags, character tags,
markers, table tags, etc.) to RTF equivalents.

You generate the components of online help (RTF files, .hpj project file,
.h mapping file, .cnt file) using WWP. You then compile these bits and
pieces with the Windows help compiler to create your .hlp file. (The
process is similar for HTMLHelp and other types of help; I'm just using
RTF-based help as an example.)

Getting your files set up can be difficult, but once they're working, the
process is very fast. Furthermore, you update only your FrameMaker
files--with careful attention to ensure that the help-specific and
print-information is maintained properly.


This tool, made by Omni Systems (www.omsys.com), lets you export FrameMaker
files to RTF just as WebWorks Publisher does. MIF2RTF supports only Windows
help, not the various other flavors of help (or HTML), but works well to
deliver Windows online help. Again, you maintain only your FrameMaker files.

Bottom line?

RoboHelp is much easier to use than WebWorks Publisher or MIF2RTF. But the
major disadvantage of RoboHelp is that you lose a lot of formatting when
transferring from FrameMaker to Word/RoboHelp.

WebWorks Publisher and MIF2RTF both offer you the option of maintaining
your content for online help in FrameMaker instead of exporting. This is a
major advantage. But both of these applications require a significant
amount of learning and setup.

To make a good decision for your organization, you need to analyze the

* What are the costs of exporting from FrameMaker to Word and losing
formatting? How often would you have to do this?
* What are the training costs and/or learning curve for each choice?
(almost certainly RoboHelp wins this one)
* What are the costs of setting up Publisher or MIF2RTF?
* Do you need to export to multiple formats? (Publisher supports HTML,
HTMLHelp, JavaHelp, OracleHelp, and more) (RoboHelp also supports various
* Is conversion time a major issue?
* Can you maintain printed docs and online help separately?
* What are the software costs?

My feeling is that WWP or MIF2RTF makes sense for companies who have large
amounts of content in FrameMaker, and who need to convert this content to
online help quickly on a fairly regular basis. The decision between WWP
(more expensive, better GUI) and MIF2RTF (fewer export options, no GUI) is
fairly straightforward--if MIF2RTF does what you need and you're willing to
learn the command line stuff, go with it. But if you need more export
options and want a GUI, you'll need WWP. RoboHelp makes sense for those
companies who do not want to delve into the mechanics of how help works.
(Both of the others require some fairly detailed knowledge about how help

I hope this helps somebody. If you want more info, feel free to contact me.


Sarah O'Keefe

Sarah O'Keefe Scriptorium Publishing Services, Inc.
FrameMaker ACE (Adobe Certified Expert)
okeefe -at- scriptorium -dot- com http://www.scriptorium.com

From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000=

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