View Full Version : Help Authoring Tools

Bob Phillips
09-18-2007, 04:36 AM
What help authoring tools do you use?

Help files are crucial to me in my line, and I also use them to create any technical notes that I want to keep on an app.

I started with the basic MS HTML Help workshop, and even though I got quite good at it, I found that I had to re-learn it all if I hadn't used it for a period.

This set me off looking for a friendlier interface. Tried RoboHelp, hated it, it was harder work than HTML Help Workshop. I am now using West Wind HTML Help Builder. I like it, it is quick and easy to learn, but I have yet to create any decent graphics within my help files (headings, footers and the like). Now graphics are not my thing, and I don't just know if it is my lack of skill, or whether the product is lacking.

I also looked at the free HelpMaker, but it is too basic for my needs.

I have just downloaded Help And Manual to trial, too early to report on.

Any thoughts on the above, tips to share? Any others out there?

09-18-2007, 07:36 AM
Just a comment.

I used to be a tech writer for a software development company a while back, and we used RoboHelp. It is mostly responsible for my lack of hair today.

Bob Phillips
09-18-2007, 08:22 AM
Glad it's not just me!

10-04-2007, 11:59 PM
RoboHelp will be useful for RTF right?

HTML Helpworkshop is a good one for ALinks, Keyword based index creation etc. But I felt not so good for associating TopicID's

By the way, I usually try either HTMLHelp or WinHelp now.

Anything better???

10-05-2007, 05:40 AM
tried Shalom helpmaker (http://www.danish-shareware.dk/soft/shelpm/)?

Bob Phillips
10-05-2007, 06:19 AM
No, we are still talking about HTMLHelp (and even WinHelp), but it is more about the interface to the those helpfile generators, something that makes the creation and maintenance simpler and more productive.

10-10-2007, 01:20 AM
I am a big fan of Help & Manual. It is coded using XML, so you write the help file once, and can output into PDF, CHM, HTML, etc

I also use Adobe Captivate when I want to record little "videos" of how to use programs. Nice output when you are truly trying to "Barney-proof" something.

10-10-2007, 06:43 AM
Glad I came across this thread--like Bob I am evaluating help
packages right now and am in real need of advice.

Way back when, I worked with RoboHelp 2000. It worked well enough
for my purposes, but it is not compatible with Office 2002 or later, and
and I am not going to recommend to my manager that we shell out the
big bucks for the current version of RoboHelp.

I have seen recommendations for the following products:

I'd love to hear opinions on these and other packages. My price
range tops out at about $200.


11-10-2007, 05:18 AM
Bit of thread raising here, but I think it's useful to note the issues with viewing .chm files over a network (search the microsoft site).

Because of this, I've started using either .hlp file creators, or (more commonly, to be honest) integrating user support into the program. Things like having a toolbar with beginner and normal modes, and setting all my labels that have the hlp_ prefix in their name to visible is working pretty well from user feedback. I know there's probably a proper name for this, but I call it differentiated UI.

mallarym : that XML-driven help editor looks VERY interesting, thank you. Giving it a whirl now!

Bob Phillips
11-10-2007, 05:58 AM
Let's be clear, being XML driven is no big deal. It is just a means of capturing the data, and on the basis that it won't be shared, has no great benefit that I can see.

I am using West Wind, and that doesn't use XML as far as I know, but creates .chm, .pdf, .doc, just as well.