Help authoring program simplifies documentation for many different platforms

If your company produces applications for end users on Windows-based systems, you know what a hassle documentation can be. RoboHELP from Blue Sky Software can alleviate your documentation aggravation by cutting hundreds of hours off the time you spend developing and maintaining your product's Help files.

RoboHELP is a complete Help authoring tool. After you develop Help documentation in RoboHELP's enhanced version of Microsoft Word, the software can turn your document into a Help file for a variety of formats--including Windows NT 3.5 and 4.0, Windows 95, Windows 3.1, Microsoft HTML, Netscape Nethelp, HTML, and printed documentation formats--with one click of your mouse.

You can install RoboHELP on any NT 3.51 or 4.0 or Win95 machine running Microsoft Office 95 or Office 97. Anyone with enough computer knowledge to need RoboHELP can probably install the software with no problem. A complete RoboHELP installation consumes 24MB of hard disk space.

RoboHELP Help Files
When you launch RoboHELP, the software automatically starts your computer's version of Word, in which you develop your basic Help document. RoboHELP adds options to Word's drop-down menus that help you control the structure and appearance of your final Help file. RoboHELP also provides a floating toolbar, which I found useful for adding topics to my document, editing the topics I included, and inserting graphics into my Help entries. Screen 1 shows a typical RoboHELP document during the development process.

RoboHELP includes many features that simplify Help authoring. One useful utility, the TOC Composer, makes developing and manipulating a multilevel table of contents easy. For example, you can move an entry from one section of your table of contents to another by selecting and dragging the word to the new location.

RoboHELP also simplifies indexing. As you create your Help document, you can mark words that you want to include in an index. You simply highlight the word and right-click it. Then you select the option Add K-Keyword from the pop-up menu that appears. RoboHELP will cross-reference your word and the associated text in the RoboHELP index; when you translate your Word document to its final Help format, the word will link to the Help file's Index tab for quick reference.

To help you build complex Help files, RoboHELP includes two more utilities, which you can execute from the Start menu: PaintIt Image Editor and Screen Capture. Other image editors and screen capture programs on the market are more powerful, but these utilities are helpful if you don't have access to more sophisticated alternatives.

When I finished my documentation, I took advantage of another RoboHELP feature that lets you test your Help document's links before you translate the file into its final format. I strongly recommend checking your documentation before you build your Help file. You can easily correct errors and omissions when the document is in Word.

After checking my documentation, I made use of what Blue Sky Software calls RoboHELP's One-Click Single Source Technology. With one mouse-click on the Make Project icon, I built a Win95 Help file out of my Word document. Then, I accessed my new file through the Win95 Help system. Everything looked exactly as I wanted it to look.

RoboHELP's price tag might seem high for a Help authoring tool, but the software can save your company thousands of dollars when migrating documentation from one Help platform to another and converting printed documentation into HTML format. I found RoboHELP 4.0 to be a great utility for software documentation.

RoboHELP 5.0, which offers additional features, shipped November 1997. For more information about the latest version of RoboHELP, see Blue Sky's Web site.

RoboHELP 4.0
Contact: Blue Sky Software * 619-459-6365 or 800-459-2356, Web: http://www.blue-sky.com
Price: $499
System Requirements: Windows NT 3.51 or 4.0 or Windows 95, 24MB of hard disk space