Tuesday, January 1, 2008

trying to be helpful

For about ten years, I’ve been maintaining the documentation suite for a set of niche market applications. The docs consistent of a set of user guides, quick start brochures, and help sets. A few years ago we made a decision to develop the online help using JavaHelp. I’ve recently been working to move the help to PDF using links from the application modules to named destinations in the PDF versions of the user guides. I am aware that an online user guide is not a help file. In fact, online guides are woefully unhelpful when it comes to resolve point-of-problem inquiries into an application’s knowledge base.

I’m attempting to justify a business decision that I know will compromise the usability of help files. The move to PDF-based help is driven by the costs of converting a
FrameMaker-based documentation suite to JavaHelp, and the need to have the help sets ship with each release of the applications. Arguments about single-sourcing aside, the quickest way to generate the help sets will be to update the PDFs named destinations with the application’s help call map IDs. I’ve not convinced myself that I feel good about this decision.

I loved watching
Michigan beat Florida today. I like Tebow, but Michigan has a better fight song. It was classic college football. A plethora of SEC wide-open passing and good ‘ol Big 10 ½ punch you in the mouth running. Saturday my Scarlet Knights look to make it two bowl victories in row. When’s the last time Dome fans could say that?


Anonymous said...

You can generate JavaHelp from FrameMaker using RoboHelp 7 (as part of Adobe Technical Communication Suite). Have you tried that option?

Mike said...

I haven't tried it, but I have been considering it. I used RoboHelp a lot of years ago with another small company that maintained their docs and specs in Word (a nightmare of sytles, fonts, etc.). I liked the tool then and have been following its improvements over the years. I do like what I've seen with demos of RoboHelp integration with the Adobe Tech Com suite. The major obstacle for this particular company is that they take their docs and help sets seriously only when they can get around to it. The cost could be prohibitive, but you've given me a bit of motivation to give it run out of my own pocket. Thanks for the nudge.