Getting Your Ducks in a Row: Taking Another Look at RoboHelp at a Memphis Conference

Saturday, March 17 2012 @ 3:31 AM, By Maxwell Hoffmann

Adobe held a special pre-conference event Sunday March 11th for early arrivals to the recent UAWriters conference in Memphis. Since the conference focus was User Assistance, RoboHelp was the product focus for this event. The Sunday enclave included an excellent set of focused presentations by subject matter experts on different aspects of UX (User Experience) that can be improved via RoboHelp.

The event was held in Memphis’s historic Peabody Hotel, famous for its twice daily “duck walk,” in which the famed Peabody ducks make an entrance to and exit from the lobby fountain. You can visit a photo album on my Facebook page for highlights, including the ducks.

Building an Enterprise Collaboration Strategy with RoboHelp

Kevin Siegel, founder of IconLogic, Inc., gave a highly interactive presentation on how content from RoboHelp can go through a collaborative review cycle, “in the cloud”, or even via email. Participant’s names and data solicited from the audience were used to prove that the demo was live. Collaborative review can take place in shared review to an internal network server or Acrobat.com, or even via individual e-mailed copies of review PDF. In either case, RoboHelp will output PDF optimized for use with free Acrobat Reader.

Collaborative comments may be imported directly into RoboHelp source files. The track changes feature in RoboHelp may be used by the editor to approve or reject comments to achieve the final, approved version of content. You may view a recorded AdobeTV episode on Using RoboHelp 9’s Collaborative Feature which highlights some of the product features Kevin focused on.

Hybrid content in RoboHelp creating eBooks

Matt Sullivan of Roundpeg Inc. and Peter Grainge of Advanced Business Solutions demonstrated the ease of creating a RoboHelp project that combined FrameMaker and Word source content. Minimal steps were required to output content to ePubs format. Matt Sullivan covered the few additional steps required to convert ePubs output to Mobi for Amazon Kindle publishing.

Controlling Findability in RoboHelp

A growing concern for creators of user assistance is the ability to add weight to key look up terms to give customers the best search results for terms and help. Many authors also want to keep the users’ search within the Help system rather than jumping into a Google search that may lead to unwanted content. Rick Stone of Show Me Solutions demonstrated the myriad ways in which RoboHelp users can control and refine search results for their customers. No programming skills required.

Sustainable Policy and Procedure Libraries: Single-sourcing in RoboHelp for Policies and Training

Beth Gerber and Pam Harrison of Lightext Inc. shared a compelling case study on how they were able to use RoboHelp to gather up 100s of policy procedure manuals within RoboHelp, and then use conditional text expressions to output either a policy/procedure manual, or training for internal staff on that manual. Conditions were also used to customize the experience for different types of content consumers. Their solution with RoboHelp was ideal for a variety of industries ranging from finance to healthcare, wherein differing state regulations require slightly different “flavors” of the same content.

Using RoboHelp Server 9’s Audience Feedback Analytics to Improve Content

John Daigle, owner and president of Evergreen Online Learning, LLC, is probably one of the most recognized subject matter experts on RoboHelp in North America. He took one of the lesser known aspects of RoboHelp Server, audience feedback analytics, and demonstrated how over time you can shape your content to more closely match the needs of your audience based on pages visited, etc. John Daigle has made many videos and blogs about RoboHelp. You may find one internal Adobe blog on this topic of particular interest in this area: “Use of RoboHelp Server by Technical Publications Departments.”

Key take-aways

Attendee enthusiasm for the event was very positive, and it was clear that many people in attendance were not aware of RoboHelp’s  many “power features” shared during the event. Some people are only familiar with older versions of RoboHelp, or RoboHelp’s potential role in Technical Communication Suite as a Help output engine for FrameMaker. RoboHelp can be used as (a) a powerful, standalone Help or ePubs authoring engine, (b) an aggregator of disparate content (e.g. FrameMaker, Word, PDF, XML, DITA) that outputs these varied sources into an attractive, cohesive Help System or publication and (c) RoboHelp can be used to output FrameMaker and DITAMAP content (via Tech Comm Suite) to a variety of important delivery formats.

As important as FrameMaker is, with its long history of dominance in tech pubs authoring, you will be hearing and seeing much more about RoboHelp, too, this year, in order to share the product’s full potential with you.

  • http://www.cmcandrew.com/robocolumn/ Colum McAndrew

    “As important as FrameMaker is, with its long history of dominance in tech pubs authoring, you will be hearing and seeing much more about RoboHelp, too, this year, in order to share the product’s full potential with you.”

    Amen to that!

  • Michael

    Collaborative review via email?  The rest of the industry is moving out of the InBox and this is being touted as a desired feature. This really doesn’t get me excited.

    Look, I don’t wanna be the contrarian or wear the black hat cause I convinced my organization at Disney to invest in RoboHelp last year (and I’m still willing to go to the mat for RoboHelp), but my audience (and fellow collaborators) have requirements around HTML 5 output, more functionality around “gated” community authoring, and perhaps just a few more Wiki-like features that start to break down the antiquated look of the traditional tri-pane interface.

    I’m hopeful that Adobe will soon step up and shed some light on their planned road map or enhancements that are forthcoming.

    Cheers.

  • http://blogs.adobe.com/mbhoffmann/ Maxwell Hoffmann

    Hi Michael, thank you for your feedback. Let me clarify that the intent was that you can “even review PDF  (secondarily) via e-mail….” We know that this is not the preferred method for most clients.There are many industries (e.g. language translation) where remote team members do not have sufficient or affordable bandwidth to connect to a cloud, and there is no in-house server. In such cases, commenting via e-mailed PDF is appropriate.

    Everything on your wish list sounds reasonable and Adobe is a reasonable company. Although we never discuss future functionality, I think that you can rest assured that you made the right choice in moving to RoboHelp. Please do continue to follow our blogs and make comments; we really benefit from your feedback.

    • Michael

      It’s okay. I understand.

      Anyway, it’s all a moot point now.  The decision has been made (though I was a dissenting voice). All of my RoboHelp project content is now being migrated into a Confluence site.

      I’m sure Adobe has great future plans, but unfortunately, it’s far too late to help me.

      Cheers,
      Michael

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