RoboHelp basics

RoboHelp is an industry-standard tool for creating user assistance. Let's chat a bit about the basics of creating help with this tool.

Adobe RoboHelp is a topic-oriented tool. Each topic has an individual topic id assigned for easy reference and linking. You can view topics by ID or topic title in the Project Manager pod.

The best way to approach help authoring with such software is to first outline the tasks and concepts you need to document. For example, if you are creating documentation (help topics) for a software application, begin by looking over your specs or the actual app. What tasks can be performed? Create topic stubs for each. Also, create an overview topic with conceptual information to tie the tasks together.

RoboHelp Projects

When you create a new project, RoboHelp allows you to specify some basic settings for the project, including a default topic, navigation settings, and an output type. RoboHelp generates help in several formats; the browser-based WebHelp is a popular format because it uses standard HTML files. The AIR help format is becoming increasingly popular also. You can also create Flash Help, WebHelp Pro (server-based help), and print output for MS Word.

Navigation options include a table of contents (TOC), full-text search, glossary, and index. These are presented in a separate pane in the published output, so that users can view the navigation and topics at the same time. Most of the navigation can be altered with in-tool editors. The search is generated automatically when you generate your output.

During the setup of your RoboHelp project, you will choose options in the Single Source Layouts dialogs that specify your default output and the navigation settings.

After setup, you can access resources in your project using the Project Manager pod. This pod contains a list of all of the topics you have created, any images stored in the project, and the Table of Contents and Index entries that you have defined.

RoboHelp editor

RoboHelp features a WYSIWYG editor and a code view. This allows you to work under the hood when you wish. Also, there are several handy tools available for creating dynamic HTML effects and so on. In addition to written content, you can insert images, video, PDF documents, and other resources into your help topics. Some of these can be embedded directly, and others can be accessed via hyperlinks. RoboHelp tracks all of the resources in your help project using XML baggage files.

If you decide not to use the internal editor, you can specify a third-party editor. When you click a topic in the Project Manager, RoboHelp will open the topic in the editor you have chosen.

Output

After you create your project and write your topics, you can generate the project and view the output.

You can also link your help into the applications you are documenting. This is known as context-sensitive help, because you can link specific topics to the appropriate features in the application interface. RoboHelp offers several APIs for linking topics into your software applications. View the help topics in RoboHelp for details. In some cases you will need a map file to help you associate topics with individual GUI components.

You can buy RoboHelp as part of the Adobe Technical Communication Suite 2.