First Look: RoboHelp X5

Need to build a help file for your application? Take a look at our "First Look" of RoboHelp X5 by Builder AU technical editor, David McAmis.

Creating help files has never been an easy taskââ,¬"in addition to collecting all of the required documentation, developers are often faced with the daunting task of deciding on a -help" format. This usually involves learning a new tool and how to integrate the help file they have created into their own application.

With the release of RoboHelp X5, Macromedia has made these tasks a little easier for developers. If you are new to development documentation and help files, RoboHelp X5 makes it easy to get started with a "RoboHelp Starter" available from the program menu that will give you some guidance on selecting the right help format for your project and how to get started.

RoboHelp Central
Figure 1: RoboHelp Central

You can create a new project from within the RoboHelp Starter using the New Project Wizard, which will go through each of the help project formats that RoboHelp supports and help you create a new RoboHelp project. You can create help files using the following formats:

ââ,¬Â¢ WebHelp
ââ,¬Â¢ WebHelp Pro
ââ,¬Â¢ FlashHelp
ââ,¬Â¢ HTMLHelp
ââ,¬Â¢ WinHelp 2000
ââ,¬Â¢ WinHelp 4
ââ,¬Â¢ WinHelp 3

If you are unsure of the format you should use after reading through all of the features and benefits of each, don't worryââ,¬"you can always convert your project to a different format if required.

Once you have created your project, the RoboHelp X5 user interface is easy to follow, with individual help topics shown in a tree view on the left-hand side and the topic content shown on the right. We found RoboHelp easy to use, in fact if you can create a Word document, you can create a help topic. The editor is intuitive and you will find most of the formatting features that are available in your favourite word processor.

RoboHelp User Interface
Figure 2: The RoboHelp user interface

And if you are looking for more finite control over what appears in your topics, there is also a "TrueCode" view which will show you the actual code that is behind the topic page, giving you the ability to edit the HTML code behind the scenes. When you are finished adding your help topics, you can quickly preview your help file as it will appear to the user.

RoboHelp X5 also makes enhancements to FlashHelp, which was introduced in RoboHelp X4 and can be used to create help files using Macromedia Flash and XML. The best part is you don't actually have to know how Flash works to create a FlashHelp project. We found RoboHelp does the hard work for you and all you need to do is develop the topics, table of contents, content and so on.

RoboHelp supports a wide range of import and export formats, so you can re-use content from other documents and formats, including HTML files, Framemaker documents, PDF files, Word, XML. You can also output your help file to PDF which is handy for creating documentation for your application.

RoboHelp X5 also has built in support for the multiple developers working on one help system, with versioning, time and date stamping, check-in, check-out and access rights.

Developers who have never created a help file before, should be able to get up and running quickly with RoboHelp X5. Experienced help developers should find enough new and enhanced features in this release to satisfy.

RoboHelp Office X5
Company: Macromedia

Price: US$999 (Macromedia Store) Street Price: AU$1695

System Requirements: (RoboHelp Office) Pentium 300 MHz or faster, 128 MB RAM (256 MB recommended) 32-bit operating system - Windows XP, ME, 2000, 98, or NT 4.0, MS Word 2003, 2002, 2000, 97 for authoring in MS Word-based environment, Internet Explorer 5.0 or later , 200 MB available disk space

On the Web:

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox