Adobe RoboHelp 8 review

£1075
Price when reviewed

Like FrameMaker, RoboHelp is a program with a distinguished but troubled past. Its prospects were transformed by inclusion in Adobe’s Technical Communication Suite but, unlike FrameMaker, this latest version hasn’t been given an interface overhaul. As a result, it still looks like 1990s shareware.

Adobe RoboHelp 8 review

At least RoboHelp 8 begins moving into the 21st century on other fronts. To start with, RoboHelp Word, a legacy from the days when Help files were authored as compiled RTF, is no longer installed. To compensate, RoboHelp 8 HTML improves integration with Word, letting you import multiple files simultaneously and control the handling of table of contents, index, glossary and style mapping, and save these as reusable settings.

Similar control is provided for Adobe FrameMaker, with support for features such as ALT text, pagination, books and DITA maps. These capabilities make it possible to quickly regenerate a RoboHelp project after making changes in Word or FrameMaker, but you can’t make changes in RoboHelp and have them reflected in FrameMaker or Word. It does edge towards such round-tripping, however, by moving from previously proprietary project files to open XML.

The most important move towards modern best practice comes with wholesale conversion to XHTML, including built-in W3C validation. RoboHelp’s previous HTML handling was famously messy, so this conversion is welcome.

Other authoring advances include a “pod” to make it easier to apply styles, a to-do list, a marginally-improved CSS editor, enhanced list and number handling, scripting capabilities and master page support. You can give your work a lift by adding “twisties” (images for indicating collapsed blocks), breadcrumbs and mini tables of contents. Integration with Captivate is tighter, making it easier to incorporate Flash movies. RoboHelp’s print and PDF output remains embarrassingly basic, though.

The most exciting new feature in RoboHelp 8 is its support for output as Adobe AIR applications and its output here is the very model of modern, cutting-edge Help authoring. It’s just a pity the same can’t be said for RoboHelp itself. The word “overpriced” springs to mind.

Details

Software subcategory Other software

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes

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