Coming home to Adobe RoboHelp after a fling with MadCap Flare

Thursday, January 5 2012 @ 3:23 PM, By Ankur Jain

by John Daigle

For those looking for an easy and quick way to return or migrate to Adobe RoboHelp after trying MadCap Flare, I’ve created an enhanced project converter. The Flare-to-RoboHelp Project Converter is free and can be downloaded on my website http://www.showmethedemo.com/Flare-to-Robohelp/. This is especially timely because of Adobe’s Switcher program which provides a 40% discount on RoboHelp for a limited time for those switching from another tool.

So why did I create the converter in the first place? I’ve been teaching thousands of authors how to use RoboHelp since its inception 20 years ago. Each release brought innovative features and workflows that made it so friendly to use for non-developers. That is, until Macromedia bought the old eHelp Corporation! Unfortunately, development stopped for several years between 2003 – 2006. Understandably, many authors (including me!) started looking for alternatives out of fear of being left behind.

It was that fear, uncertainty and doubt that caused some RoboHelpers to give Flare a try. After all, it was developed by former members of the old eHelp RoboHelp team. The assumption was that it would have the look and feel and usability of the original RoboHelp. But, for many, it was a disappointment. Not that Flare didn’t have fine features. My clients simply felt that Flare’s user interface was far too “technical” and the workflows so much more cumbersome compared to RoboHelp. There was also a much steeper learning curve. Make no mistake. Flare is a fine product. But many authors feel it takes more than list of marketing buzzword features to be really useful in the long run. The workflows need to be logical and cater to technical communicators who want to spend more time helping their readers than learning some new technical way of doing things. These authors who flirted with Flare missed the ease of use they recalled when they used RoboHelp.

Then, something amazing happened. Adobe Systems bought Macromedia and management saw great potential for new development. In particular, they could see how RoboHelp could be combined with Adobe FrameMaker, Adobe Captivate, Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Photoshop and be part of a family of “best of breed” applications for technical communicators. They called it Adobe Technical Communications Suite. Since taking over RoboHelp, there have been four releases that have incorporated the technologies and workflows authors have requested. It is clear now that RoboHelp will remain the leader and continue its long-standing innovative path. In other words, “it’s safe to return home.”

Those returning to RoboHelp from Flare tell me they had no idea that Adobe had made so many innovations and improvements. Among the many new things they found were:

  • A much-requested way to provide content based on categories such as “role-based” or “location-based” or any other sub-group the author prefers. Each category has its own Content, Index, Search and Glossary to find what’s relevant to them.
  • Robust search enhancements such as External Content Search for Web 2.0 content curation, integration of Google search, and more options for end users to maximize their search results.
  • Community-generated content with RoboHelp’s unique and popular AIR Help output that provides moderated end-user commenting “out of the box” with no extra add ons.
  • The most outputs of any tool including Adobe FlashHelp, Eclipse Help, JavaHelp, AIR Help, WebHelp, Acrobat PDF as well as mobile and device XML formats such as ePUB.
  • Adobe RoboHelp Server which provides user Feedback Analytics reports and a way to authenticate users and manage access to content.

At conferences like WritersUA, STC Summits and LavaCon, folks have asked me if it was possible to convert a MadCap Flare™ project to an Adobe® RoboHelp® 7, 8 or 9 project. So as part of my consulting practice, I decided to create a quick and easy (and free) value add for my clients with this converter and help authors return to RoboHelp. Now, anyone can download the converter here. It is provided free on an “as is” basis.  Please take a look at the 3-minute Adobe Captivate video tutorial (embedded in this blog post) to see it in action.

View video in a new browser window

Depending on the combination of Flare and RoboHelp versions that are used, these features are usually converted successfully*:

  • Topics
  • CSS
  • TOC and Keyword Index
  • Glossary
  • Snippets
  • User Defined Variables
  • Conditional Build Tags
  • Context Sensitive Help (CSH) Map files
  • Headers and footers are converted to Snippets similar to Flare
  • See Also and Related Topics links are NOT supported at this time

*A very few items may require “tweaking” after the conversion. This will depend on the version of Flare and the version of RoboHelp. I have tested all the way back to Flare v2.1 up until Flare v7.2 and with RoboHelp 7, 8 and 9 with successful results. Fortunately it only takes a five or ten minutes to see how well it works for you.

To all the authors returning home to RoboHelp after their fling with Flare, I thank you. And, welcome back!

About the Author

John Daigle is president of Evergreen Online Learning, LLC, based in Evergreen, Colorado. A frequent speaker at national online help conferences, John is an Adobe Certified RoboHelp, Captivate and Acrobat Connect Professional Instructor. He has taught RoboHelp since 1992 and Adobe Captivate since it was introduced. His speaking engagements include the STC Manhattan Chapter, STC Summits in Minneapolis, Atlanta, Philadelphia, WritersUA and LavaCon conferences.

John is a member of the Society for Technical Communication (Rocky Mountain Chapter) and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism from the University of Houston. He began his career in broadcast news as a reporter for the NBC television affiliate in Houston, Texas.


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