Adobe RoboHelp 9 review

£953
Price when reviewed

RoboHelp began its life almost 20 years ago, as an add-on for Microsoft Word designed to produce compiled WinHelp. Happily, both WinHelp and those days and are long gone, and RoboHelp is now a powerful and dedicated topic-based authoring application built around HTML.

Still, there’s no question that RoboHelp 9’s Office 2003-style environment is showing its age. Some work has been done to make it easier to arrange pods and to close, open and access topics, but these are minor tweaks. As one of the two flagships in Adobe’s Technical Communication Suite 3, the RoboHelp interface really needs to be brought into line and given the full Adobe treatment.

Interface aside, RoboHelp 9 does introduce some real time-savers, starting with the enhanced Resource Manager. This lets you add shared resources in either Copy or Linked mode, complete with automatic updating after external modification. The handling of snippets and variables has been enhanced with support for categories, sorting and real-time searching. You can now also paste rich content, complete with text, images, links, formatting and tables copied from Word, Excel or a browser.

Adobe RoboHelp 9

An even bigger boost comes for those creating context-sensitive help. Open your application from within RoboHelp 9 and you can map dialog boxes to new or existing topics, with the necessary Help IDs extracted automatically. Some users will benefit greatly, but the target application must support RoboHelp’s new CSH API – currently only C++ APIs on Windows are supported.

Help authoring tends to be a collaborative process these days, so RoboHelp 9’s new review capabilities are significant. Previously, users could add comments and track changes, but this process can now be opened up to others via PDF support. Select which topics you want to include, and export them to a PDF with full commenting capabilities enabled within the free Adobe Reader.

RoboHelp 9’s new PDF review capabilities include centralised hosting via Acrobat.com or via the new SharePoint support, the ability to add comments to embedded media, and the option to import annotations back into your project as live comments and tracked edits. However, it’s a bit awkward having to review your online help system via an essentially fixed electronic document format. After all, RoboHelp is all about producing random-access content based upon reflowing HTML. Here, RoboHelp 9 adds the ability to preview topics and projects within multiple browsers. It also introduces support for the XHTML-based ePub format, increasingly popular as the eBook format universally supported by devices.

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