Using Master Pages in RoboHelp 8

Monday, April 27 2009 @ 3:19 PM, By Milind Kumar Jha

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Master Pages, a new concept introduced in Adobe RoboHelp 8, intends to provide flexibility in controlling the layout of topics, where in an author may separate the actual content from the layout of the output and may do it from a single place. In Adobe RoboHelp 8, a user may use Master Page as a Layout and Styling canvas where one may put basic HTML elements to be used for Layout purposes. This is an enhanced feature to the legacy Topic Template feature in RoboHelp through which user could just create topics having initial similar content and could control CSS style and Header/Footer.

Also, this feature introduces the concept of various Placeholders viz. Body Placeholder, MiniTOC Placeholder, Breadcrumbs Placeholder, where a user may generate variety of content in different style as and when required at various places in the topics controlling them from the same Master Page.

Using other placeholders, such as Mini TOC and Breadcrumbs may give authors a tighter control over the layout of the output since Mini TOC or Breadcrumbs may be generated automatically with same settings done at a single place in the Master Page. RoboHelp Headers and Footers behaviour is kept similar to earlier Topic Templates for a reusable persistence model.

Another use of this feature may be to achieve different look and feel for different SSL outputs. With a Layout already defined in a Master page, during generation of output, user may decide to apply one of the Master Pages used in the project so as to keep a consistent look and feel throughout the project output. This gives more flexibility to a user with respect to defining and controlling the layout of output.

The Master Page

MasterPage.jpg
Different areas of a Default Master Page

The Master Page Editor may be considered having two components, first, the Body placeholder area as a representative of Topic content to which this Master Page will be applied and second, the area outside the Body Placeholder which may be used for controlling the layout of associated topics (Refer the Image)

This Layout area is like any other Editor area where HTML content may be placed. The difference with the content outside Body Placeholder i.e. the Layout area is that these contents are not shown in the associated topic but are patched during preview/output. RoboHelp 8 overrides all layout settings (e.g. Borders and Shading Properties, Background Color etc) of attached Topic from that of the Master page.

In the Design view of a Topic associated with a Master Page, contents from the layout part is not shown, but while creating a topic, content present inside the Body Placeholder is placed as initial content of the new topic. The resulting preview/output of a topic with applied Master Page is formed with a combination of Layout from Master Page and content from the topic placed at a position where Body Placeholder is kept in the Master Page Layout. This may be understood from the following schematic:

Layouting.gif
Generation of Preview/Output for a topic associated with a Master Page

The Placeholders

Body Placeholder

A new concept of Body placeholder has been introduced in the Master Page which shall act as a placeholder for the actual topic content associated with this master page. This Body Placeholder is a special placeholder that provides space to embed the seed content to be inserted into a newly created topic based on this Master Page. Another most important use of this placeholder is to represent the Topic Content in layout of the Master Page. A Master Page can have only one Body Placeholder at a time. During preview/generation of resultant topic based on a Master Page, Body placeholder of the corresponding master page will be replaced by content of the actual topic content and the resulting topic will be generated.

Mini TOC Placeholder:

This placeholder may be used to generate a Mini TOC automatically at compile time for intra topic navigation. Although, this Placeholder may be inserted anywhere and any no. of times in the Master Page or a Topic, the purpose of centralized control and consistent appearance may be achieved by placing it into a Master Page Layout area. While previewing or in the output of a topic, this Placeholder will be replaced by the actual Mini TOC generated based on the Style settings done for the placeholder and the content in the resulting Topic for style H1 to H6 .

Mini TOC also provides a way to expand/collapse the Mini TOC in the output with a defined string (By default it is show/hide), which is shown beside Mini TOC caption in Expanding Hot Spot Style. The string may be changed from LNG File of the project wherein the variables are present in Master Page’s section. If an author doesn’t want to have any text present for the expand/collapse functionality, he may keep the variables as blank. Also if one wants to keep the Caption and this Hot Spot absent for a Mini TOC, one may keep the Caption blank. Still further, if a user wants to use the Expand/Collapse string in the output but doesn’t want to have any Caption in the resulting Mini TOC, he may achieve it by placing a space in the Caption field of the corresponding placeholder.

Breadcrumbs Placeholder

Breadcrumbs Placeholder is a placeholder for a Breadcrumb to be generated at Output generation time for inter topic linking based on the TOC selected. This placeholder may be inserted anywhere and any no. of times in a Master Page or a Topic, although maximum flexibility and centralized control may be achieved if used in a Master Page layout area.

Style for breadcrumbs may be set from the Options dialog itself, but if a user wants to use style present in CSS he may set the style for Breadcrumbs in CSS itself, where an entry for the Breadcrumbs character and paragraph style is present. After setting these style elements in the CSS user should check “Use Style from Topic” option in the corresponding Breadcrumb dialog for those settings to be applied in corresponding Breadcrumbs.

Generating consistent Output in RoboHelp 8

Adobe RoboHelp 8 provides a consistent way of producing output with the help of applying CSS or Master Page while generating output. This gives an author flexibility to generate same content with different styles and different layouts by just applying a CSS or a Master Page while generating output.

If a user wants to have a consistent layout across his output, he may create a Master Page with that particular layout and apply it in all of the topics in the content. The resulting output will have all topic contents placed in place of Body Placeholder present in the Master Page with the CSS of Master Page overriding the CSS of topics across output Topics. User may also select only a CSS to apply across all topics by selecting it in the SSL dialog. Doing this, selected CSS will be applied across all topics while generation.

A user may still want to use a layout from a Master Page and the CSS from the Topic itself. This may also be achieved by applying a Master Page having None CSS attached and corresponding layout present. Doing this will apply only layout from the Master Page on the resulting topics and CSS of the topics will be the same as in topics and hence may be different for the topics in the output.

Milind Jha
RoboHelp QE Team

  • http://www.rainmaker.com Thomas Groppi

    If i was to create a master page just give it some “little triangle icon” to navigate from next/previous topic (so all my topics get’s them) then how would i tell RH to use my RH.CSS file… It ask you from a master page or css inside the airhelp panel. How do you give it both. Thanks Thomas

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  • Drew

    I am brand new to Help authoring and am trying to learn the basics of RoboHelp. This content describes the uses of master pages but does not provide any instruction as to how to actually apply a master page to a particular topic. Can basic instructions be provided?

    • lisa

       I totally agree.

  • Cynthia

    There should be, at the top of the page, a CLEAR set of directions on how to display master pages and edit them. It is annoying to search through Help for information on finding a feature, only to find a marketing page with no clear directions on where to find the feature.

  • Cyndi-C

    Ditto, I had just converted my project from verion 7 to 9 and I need to correct the font of the header on the master page, but this does not help me.

  • Arianna Christian

    Hello…
    Thanks for shared excellent post..!!!

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