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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Was Honesty a Mistake?

Adobe sent me a survey about their product. These are some of the comments I sent to them to consider.

The sample projects are for version 9 or 10 or 11; the documentation rarely has navigation information - it says what widget to set but not how to get to the screen with that widget; I've sent inquiries to tech support that required me to follow-up because I had no response within a week; the youtube videos are a joke - there's only outdated information about RoboHelp while FrameMaker has a bunch of up-to-date videos; the only Word document provided to set up linking to Word functionality has all Normal style - not headings or even a "Body Text" style so it's absolutely worthless; the only videos I've seen about linking to Word documents are for version 9; when you do the conversion settings, every Word style in every linked Word doc is included and there's no way to figure out which style came from what linked Word document; there's no way to link to Word docs in multiple folders without going to each folder - you can't select a base folder and tell RoboHelp to create a link to every *.docx file in all the sub-folders; there's no reporting for linked Word documents - even the ability to run a report that says "there are X number of linked Word documents in this project; I can create a folder in the Project Manager tab and it will not show up so if I try to create a folder a second time with the same name, RoboHelp tells me the folder exists even though it doesn't show in my Project Manager; the .fpj files are an absolute joke as I delete all empty directories but because the directory is listed in the .fpj file, it is always recreated, even though it is an obsolete folder and unnecessary; editing the .fpj file in Notepad has led to countless times of going back to a backup - I run a back up of my project folders because I am unsure whether there is going to be some new & mysterious error that corrupts my linked Word documents.

All that said, I LOVE RoboHelp - I would still chose it as my tool. I was a RoboHelp MVP many years ago and understand the way the tool works most of the time. The above is a list of where there is a gap between what the tool was intended to do and how I am using the tool, which in some cases may be a fringe use case - I get that. You asked for my opinion....

Oh, and when I go to Help > About, the information scrolls. I had to quickly type the version before it disappeared or wait until it scrolled through again.

Authoring: Right To Left language support - will never use
Authoring: Support for creating tabbed content - don't know what is meant by this
Collaboration: Integration with other CMS connectors - what other CMS connectors?
Collaboration: SharePoint integration improvements - what improvements?
Collaboration: Support for real-time multi-author topic creation (e.g. Google Docs) - this would be HUGE!!
Collaboration: Web based review workflow - sounds interesting - would depend upon how it is implemented
Publishing: eBooks output enhancements - no need for this in my world
Publishing: Improvements in context sensitive help - not linking to an application so not relevant
Publishing: Out-of-box publishing to wikis - THIS would be HUGE. The other side of it would be to be able to import an existing Wiki by entering a URL and automagically creating RoboHelp topics in a RoboHelp project and having the same type of linking that exists between Word documents on a network and the pages in a Wiki
RoboHelp Server enhancements - not using

I may seem to be negative in this survey and I don't want anyone reading this to be ashamed or to feel bad. I am using RoboHelp to link to Word documents on a network drive to create comprehensive disaster recovery documentation. I feel like I'm working with the linking to Word documents in a fairly 'real world' situation and because of that, I run into gaps, such as being able to generate a list of the linked Word documents in my project; where styles are coming from when I go to map between the CSS and the Word template and, on top of that, I was told that even if I delete a style in a Word document, that style will still show up in the list of styles - which caused me to almost fall over in shock when I read that in the email from Technical Support! If I delete a style in a Word document and there are no other linked Word documents with that style, that style SHOULD NOT BE LISTED (can you tell I feel passionate about this?!?) in the window where you link between the CSS and the Word doc.

I will also say that I wish there was a way to set up content reuse within the linked Word documents. I created a Word document with bookmarks and then, within my linked Word documents, I set up references to that Word document with fields. I did that mainly so I could have consistent headings across all of the linked Word documents. I am in the infancy of implementing this concept but I see a value in eventually expanding what I am doing to include what i would create a snippet for, if all these linked Word documents were imported into RoboHelp and not linked to the project. The reason I am linking to the project is because other teams in my department are actually the ones responsible for authoring the content. There is content in many formats - CSV, Excel, PDF, VSD - and I am providing a single place to get all of that information. Again, I realize I may be a fringe use case.

And, as I said earlier, I DO like RoboHelp - I think it serves my purpose decently. Madcap Flare forces you to import your Word documents, which is not an option. Doc-to-Help makes your primary authoring environment be Word, which I didn't want.

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