Adobe RoboHelp 7 has a great multi-authoring support. You can use a Source Control system to achieve the same. In my opinion it is the best way to achieve true multi-authoring. Alternatively, if you want to avoid the complexity of setting up a Source Control system, you may use the Merged Help feature of RoboHelp to achieve multi-authoring. However, I repeat – I strongly recommend using a Source Control as it provides added benefits:
- It gives you the flexibility of working on all the files in the project – true multi-authoring. Even two or more authors can work on the same file simultaneously. You may wish to restrict access by setting adequate permissions and/or setting an option for not letting two authors work on the same file.
- It also provides Version Management. You can retrieve older version of not just files and folders but even complete projects.
Multi-authoring using Source Control
Adobe RoboHelp 7 has an in-built support to connect to any Source Control that supports Microsoft Source Code Control Interface (MSSCCI) API. This includes most of the Source Control including RoboSource Control (which ships for free along with Adobe RoboHelp 7), Perforce, Visual Source Safe version 6 and 7 etc.
The most important characteristic of this integration is that RoboHelp shields the author from the complexity of the Source Control. An author will never require opening the Source Control program. He can manage most of the tasks like – Adding a project to the Source Control, Retrieving they latest version of the project or any of its older versions, checking the history of a file etc without leaving RoboHelp HTML application. RoboHelp HTML has a very friendly toolbar that can do all of this without the author leaving the authoring application. Apart from this, the application also keeps a track of files that get modified when you work on a project. If you are modifying existing files in a project, they will be automatically checked out, including project files like the ones used for storing Conditional Build tags, User Defined variables, Snippets etc. It also keeps a track of the new files that get created while you work on your project. And as soon as you close your project or application, it will ask you to check all the modified and newly added files into the Source Control program. Simple isn’t it.
Most of the Source Controls programs, including RoboSource Control provide the option of locking and / or notifying the author if a file is already in use or is being updated by another author. Some advanced Source Control systems, including RoboSource Control also allow the same file to be edited by multiple authors at the same time. However, in such a case, the one checking-in the file will have to make sure that he merges all the changes checked-in by another author. At times this could become tricky and thus I would recommend you to do so only if you are a power user. By default, this feature is turned off in RoboSource Control and it will lock a file if the same is being updated by an author.
If you have not looked at RoboSource Control, I would suggest that you give it a try right away. There is a very nice article on the RoboHelp Developer Center by Matthew Ellison that talks about how to set up and use RoboSource Control – http://www.adobe.com/devnet/robohelp/articles/robosource.html
Multi-authoring using Merged Help feature
Adobe RoboHelp has a very powerful feature, using which an author can set up merging of multiple smaller projects into one single project when the smaller projects are published in a specific folder structure. For the purpose of multi-authoring, you could do the reverse. Meaning thereby, that a single mammoth project can be split into smaller projects in such a way that an author gets to work on an independent help project. The beauty of this feature is that, after you set up the system, you do not have to collaborate with any of the other authors. You can publish your part of the project independent of the other authors. When you publish, the system is smart enough to make changes to just your part of the project without affecting the other part of project. Pretty neat isn’t it.
Multi-authoring is a very powerful feature and providing multi-authoring support is just a small part of it. I will cover it in more detail some other day.