Stupid Things RoboHelp Does
Update: I updated to RoboHelp version 8. So much improved over version 7! The Search improvements alone are worth the upgrade! (12-25-2011: Version 9 was released this year (?) and I’m told it has many improvements, but I have not tried it.
The meat and potatoes of a “real” technical writer’s job is making context-sensitive help files that are embedded in software applications, often in addition to Web-based help and printable user guides. There are numerous “single-source” applications that you can use to, in theory, compose once and generate the several types of help you need (PDF, CHM, Web-based, JavaHelp, Oracle Help, etc.). I’ve used a variety of these so-called single-source authoring tools, and none of them is truly single-source. If you don’t have to meet any specific requirements, then RoboHelp, Flare, Doc-To-Help, AuthorIT, Notepad, and such will likely provide what you need. But if your output must meet specific requirements, that single-source authoring tool will need your creative and research skills to figure out how to “fix” the output.
For a help authoring tool, RoboHelp has notoriously bad help. Meaning, when you click Help in RoboHelp, I very rarely find the help I need. If you search the Internet for help, you will find numerous experienced RoboHelp users with awesome Web sites to provide some of the more common tips, as well as tips for very advanced users (e.g., Peter Grainge’s Site, RoboWizard, Google Groups).
Below are a few tricks I’ve discovered while using RoboHelp. Come back here from time to time as I find other stumbling blocks. Unfortunately, by the time I figure out how to fix the problem, I’m usually in a hurry to get past it and don’t think to document what I did. But it always manages to find me again. There are many, many, many more that I’ve never documented, but when I stumble across them again, I’ll add them here.
Perhaps you have a better solution? If so, please let me know in the comments.
Below are real problems/needs that I encountered and the solutions that worked best for my situation. I encourage you to experiment with the code (after judicious backing up and copying) to find the solution that works for you.
Problem/Need: I had been fighting doing merged chms because it’s more complicated for print and I like having the WebHelp all in one project. But as the project got bigger, it became clear that it would be much easier to manage the project in pieces with merged helpsets, so I bit the bullet a while back and did it. Today I wanted to link topics between merged helpsets and FINALLY found a clue. The info I found online finally worked after I played with the link (based on what I knew from linked JavaHelp).
Solution: Without any help from RoboHelp’s help, I found that when you insert the hyperlink, in the Hyperlink dialog box, you can click the Link to arrow, then click Remote Topic. Then the Select Remote Topic dialog box opens, in which you can select the merged helpset’s chm (which you’ve already copied to the Source folder), then click the topic filename. The link is similar to a normal “a href” link, but with the filename of the chm, 2 colons, and a forward slash in front of the htm. The code looks like this:
the Expiration Date for a User Account (SetExpirationDate)</a>
In this example, the text the user sees look like this:
Setting the Expiration Date for a User Account (SetExpirationDate)
When I clicked the eyeglasses icon (preview) it didn’t work, but when I compiled, it actually worked.
Problem/Need: WebHelp does not appear correctly in Google Chrome (the TOC, Glossary, Index, Search tabs are blank)
Solution: Adobe posted a fix on their support pages (within ONE DAY of complaining!): Chrome fix
Problem/Need: A topic named “Using the Software with IIS” was not coming up in a search for “IIS.” I suspected the stop words were preventing it from appearing, so I deleted “is” from the stop words. Nope, didn’t fix it. Then I found RoboHelp’s stop words file and edited that. Nope, didn’t fix it. Then I edited the stop words file from the generated help. That fixed it. But when I regenerate, it will over write it.
Solution: I really hate it when apps try to think for me! I removed the stop words from the project FOR A REASON, and when I generated, the stop words reappeared in the project. So when I edited RoboHelp’s stop words file, the stop words had already been added back to the project. I saved my “clean” stop words file away from the generation folder, but it would be nice if RoboHelp just let me do the thinking. 😕