Windows

Review: IBE Software's HelpNDoc documentation tool

Creating both an online Help system and printed documentation from a single source, then you should consider the HelpNDoc Help Authoring environment.

If you are working on a documentation project that requires you to create both an online Help system and printed documentation from a single source, then you need to need to investigate IBE Software's HelpNDoc Help Authoring environment. In addition to being very easy to use, it is inexpensive and will allow you to create professional looking documentation.

Specifications

  • Supported Operating Systems: Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7
  • Memory: 256MB+ RAM, 15MB of hard disk space, and 1024x768+ screen resolution
  • Price: Free for personal use and either $92 (Standard) or $186 (Professional) for commercial use.
  • More information at: HelpNDoc.com
  • TechRepublic Photo Gallery

Who is it for?

Technical writers/documentation specialists or software developers who need to be able to quickly and easily create online Help systems as well as printed documentation.

What problem does it solve?

Most of the major Help authoring tools currently on the market are bloated, convoluted, and overly complex requiring advanced training in order to understand, let alone use, all of the built-in features. With its straightforward WYSIWYG user interface that looks and feels just like a standard word processor, HelpNDoc is a basic Help authoring tool that removes all the complexity and allows you to stay focused on creating the content for your help system, which you can save using either HTML or CHM format. Keeping the central focus on the content, HelpNDoc also eliminates all of the difficulty typically involved in exporting the Help system content to other formats, such as PDF and DOC.

Features

  • Ease of use: If you know how to use a word processor, such as Microsoft Word or OpenOffice.org Writer, and Windows Explorer, you'll be right at home in HelpNDoc.
  • Variable features: The built-in variables feature allows you to define reusable/replaceable text. You assign a word, phrase, or paragraph to a variable and then insert the variable in multiple locations wherever you want to use that word, phrase, or paragraph. If the text ever needs to be changed, you only have to change the variable definition.
  • Manage keywords: The keyword tool makes it easy to create and manage keywords that are then used for the Index.
  • Great Single Source Functionality: Once you create your documentation, just click the Compile button and in addition to creating an HTML-based Help file, you can create PDF, DOC, and even CHM files all at the same time.
  • Integration: Support for major programming languages to allow easy integration into compiled applications.
  • External control: Extensive command line support allows external control via compilers or scripting.

What's wrong?

Unfortunately, in order to keep the price down and to enforce the licensing structure, documentation created with the free version includes a small advertisement for the HelpNDoc product at the bottom of each and every page. The Standard edition only includes the advertisements at the bottom of DOC and PDF documents. The Professional edition doesn't have any advertisements.

If you need to create CHM files, you have to download and install Microsoft Help Workshop separately. However, once you do, HelpNDoc will be able to create CHM files.

Competitive products

Bottom line for business

If you're looking for a basic Help system and documentation tool that is inexpensive, easy to use and allows you to easily create single source documentation, then HelpNDoc is a serious contender. The word processor-like user interface makes this tool very accessible and so easy to use that your documentation specialists won't need additional and costly training in order to be very productive.

User rating

Have you encountered or used IBE Software's HelpNDoc? If so, what do you think? Rate your experience and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think. Give your own personal review in the TechRepublic Community Forums or let us know if you think we left anything out.

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About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

9 comments
dung.itaptech
dung.itaptech

you can help me use software HelpNDoc. I need help

Justin James
Justin James

Thanks for this very timely Product Spotlight! I am in the middle of a huge code documentation project, and I am about to try turning all of the in-code XML into Help files, and Sandcastle is impossible to figure out... J.Ja

lund
lund

There seems to be some problem with the manufacturer's website. I have tried the link for 2 days, and it can't be located.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

What does do you use to create documentation and help files? How well does it work? Are you looking for a better way?

Justin James
Justin James

With "NDoc" in the name, I was really hoping that it built on the NDoc tool, and would be able to automatically construct the files based on my XML comments in my C# or VB.NET source code. Unfortunately, it does not do that, so it is not appropriate for my needs. :( J.Ja

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...just fine. Clicking the link in the article takes you directly to the HelpNDoc site. Try copying it into your browswer: http://www.helpndoc.com/ Could it be blocked on your end?

lund
lund

There seems to be no way of opening the site. I tried clicking on the link, copying the link and pasting it to the browser. I even tried to find it by means of Google, where it shows up alright but does not open. Could the site somehow be blocked for Brazil?

lund
lund

I tried again today, on two different machines, with IE8 and Firefox. No possibility of opening the site from here (Santos, SP, Brazil). I was trying "www.helpndoc.com". Later I found the link "www.ibe-software.com" o Google, which was equally unsuccessful.

Justin James
Justin James

Sorry to say, it works for me as well. J.Ja