RoboHelp 11 review (finally)

robohelp logoAdobe released its latest version of RoboHelp Version 11 (and Technical Communications Suite 5), a while back and asked if we could write a review. There have been a number of excellent reviews, so we’ve been wondering what extra we can say. We’ve decided to address some of the questions we’re often asked by organisations when they’re deciding which Help Authoring Tool to choose.

How easy is it for beginners?

RoboHelp is the granddaddy of Help Authoring Tools and this is reflected in its User Interface. The opening wizard-like window is friendly and easy to use, but the User Interface after that can be daunting. It retains the traditional ribbon interface that’s been around for the last ten or so years. It’s messy, a mess even, but it does work in that you can make an educated guess where a feature is likely to be, and it’s likely to be there.

For the completely new user, however, the sheer length of the ribbon bar, and the collection of windows that open up, is likely to make RoboHelp appear more complicated than it is.

robohelp 11 screen

Does it produce mobile-ready output?

Help Authoring Tools typically separate the “look and feel”information from the content, so there are few problems in publishing to new formats in comparison to some Content Management Systems. It’s sometimes easy to forget that Help Authoring Tools handle this aspect so well. Adobe has added Responsive HTML output to RoboHelp 11, which means the output will rearrange itself to suit different screen sizes. This new mobile-ready Help is more SEO-friendly, as it is “frameless” – everything is on a single HTML page. These capabilities are important where you need to offer mobile-ready content, and are some of the key reasons for upgrading from an earlier version.

Is the Help authoring stage still a bottleneck in software development?

Help Authoring Tools are typically seen as a specialist tool for Technical Authors, and something that can been too complex for others to use. This perspective can cause bottlenecks and problems in working collaboratively.

Both MadCap (with Flare) and Adobe have come up with innovative ways to enable more collaboration. Rather than having to go into the the tool, Subject Matter Experts can review and contribute content to a RoboHelp project using PDF-based reviews. The author sends a PDF to a Subject Matter Expert, and any changes the SME makes can be imported into the RoboHelp project. It’s a nice approach as long as the reviewer doesn’t need to make a huge amount of changes and additions (the PDF can look a mess in that situation). This feature isn’t new to Version 11, but is part of the solution Adobe has been developing for enabling people to work collaboratively.

What is new is Adobe has introduced Cloud integration to make working with remote teams easier. If you have different RoboHelp users who need to share content or share topics via Dropbox or Google Drive, then the improvements to RoboHelp’s Resource Manager will make your lives a lot easier. When we started Cherryleaf back in 2002, we had to install a Virtual Private Network in order to facilitate remote collaborative working. Thank goodness this is no longer needed!

So with someone acting as ringmaster, with Version 11, it’s easier to work collaboratively and capture those pearls of wisdom from developers, trainers and power users.

Other changes

There are a stack of other enhancements – improvements to printed outputs and support for the latest version of Word and Captivate, for example – which may be other reasons to upgrade.

Summary

The enhancements to Version 11 should keep existing RoboHelp users happy. If you’re happy with a competing tool, unless your tool doesn’t support mobile outputs of collaborative working, there may not be a compelling reason to move to RoboHelp. If you’re new to Help authoring and are considering which tool to pick, then RoboHelp 11 should definitely be on your shortlist.

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