May 24, 2004 Program Summary
by Adele Sommers

A Live RoboHelp X5 Demo from Macromedia:
Help Authoring Tools Are Not Just for Creating Help

Speaker RJ JacquezThis unique event featured a live, interactive Web presentation by RJ Jacquez (left; see more speaker details below), the Product Manager for RoboHelp for FrameMaker at Macromedia, Inc. This Webinar was broadcast exclusively to our chapter and guests, and featured the inside scoop on Macromedia's Help authoring tool, RoboHelp X5, as well as the latest version of Macromedia's demonstration and simulation capture tool, RoboDemo.

The RoboHelp product line was developed by one of the pioneers in the Help industry, eHelp Corporation. Macromedia acquired eHelp Corporation in late 2003 and is now engaged in an outreach program to STC chapters. The SLO STC chapter, in conjunction with the Cal Poly STC and English 518 class in the Cal Poly Technical Communication Certificate Program, arranged for this live demonstration of RoboHelp's features.

What is a Help authoring tool?

Members of the audience watch the WebcastWhat exactly is a Help authoring tool, you ask? It's the design system used to create that useful information that pops open whenever you select “Help” from the main menu or click a “Help” button in any software application.

Usually, the information appears as a collection of ordered, searchable topics with a table of contents, glossary, and index. Topics typically link to other topics so you can drill down to exactly what you need to know.

Few people realize, however, that Help authoring tools also can create just about any type of presentation that uses a navigational structure! These include product overviews, marketing presentations, and tutorials.

This is a two-part summary

  • Part 1 gives a brief description of the information presented in the Webinar about RoboHelp X5 and RoboDemo 5.0.
  • Part 2 contains links to a self-guided tour of sites that show examples of non-Help projects created with RoboHelp and RoboDemo. These examples are meant to spark your imagination about what can be done with a Help authoring system aside from creating Help.

Part 1: An overview of RoboHelp X5 and RoboDemo 5.0

RoboHelp X5

During our overview of RoboHelp X5, RJ took us on a tour of several aspects of Help authoring. The purpose was to transport the participants, who had varying degrees of exposure to Help, onto a “level playing field” of familiarity. Among the many topics we covered, RJ showed and explained:

  • What goes into authoring Help and what it can produce. We learned how you can create your base information directly in RoboHelp or import it from word processing tools. You can create a table of contents, browse sequences, a glossary, and an index of keywords with ease. You can also compile the output in any of several different formats, some of which are cross-platform and cross-browser compatible. For example, FlashHelp, the new RoboHelp Flash-based format, offers a flexible and versatile option for cross-platform productions. The Flash elements in the interface ensure that it appears and functions the same in every browser. Authors can add graphics, sounds, animations, or other interactive elements to any Help project, including simulation sequences created using RoboDemo.
  • Special features, such as the content management system. RoboHelp X5 comes with a variety of accessories and optional features. For example, the content management tool, RoboSource Control, captures and preserves each version of the project. It can date and time stamp each version, and well as compare versions for differences. The check-out/check-in features are especially useful when working with multiple authors.
  • What “single-sourcing” means. This term refers to the ability to import or create source information once and output it in many different formats or variations. For example, once you create information, conditional build tags allow you to have selected sections apply only to certain builds, such as to a “light” or “pro” version of the system. The output options include several formats for specific uses (see the diagram below). You can compile output in any of these formats without modifying the source information by simply selecting a few switches. The look and feel of most output types can be customized using “skins.” Skins are available from libraries that come with the system or that reside on Macromedia's site. Help authors can further tailor the skins to alter colors, fonts, and other features.

Diagram of importing, editing, & output
Image used with permission of Macromedia, Inc.

A sample of FlashHelp

A sample of FlashHelpThe image at left shows a sample of the FlashHelp output as it appears in the browser with its default skin (one of several you can use). RJ demonstrated several aspects of the interface, as explained below.

The tool bar at the top shows a Contents button, which relates to the navigation pane on the left side. The navigation pane contains all of the topics in the table of contents. Note that the viewer can show or hide the pane as desired.

Other tool bar buttons and functions, such as the Index, Search, and Glossary, can be included or excluded by the Help author. Authors also can choose whether to display or hide the navigation pane by default. In this way, RJ verified that information designers can use Help authoring systems for many other types of productions that need automatically ordered and hyperlinked pages.

For more information on all of the features of RoboHelp X5, see the RoboHelp X5 tour on Macromedia's site. Image used with permission of Macromedia, Inc.

RoboDemo 5.0

RoboDemo, Macromedia's demonstration and simulation capture tool, enables authors to create Flash-based simulations and demos without knowing Flash. RJ explained that authors can incorporate customized text captions, audio, video, Flash animations, text animations, images, and hyperlinks. In answer to an audience question, RJ confirmed that Flash developers can import RoboDemo projects into Flash for editing and ActionScripting.

According to RJ, one way that authors can enhance Help projects is by including RoboDemo software simulations in applicable topics. For example, authors wanting to show how a software interface works can “start the camera” with the application open and let RoboDemo capture and automatically annotate the pointer and keystroke sequences needed to perform a specific task, as shown in the diagram below.

For more information on all of the features of RoboDemo, see the RoboDemo information page on Macromedia's site.

Sequence for using RoboDemo
Image used with permission of Macromedia, Inc.

Part 2: A self-guided tour of non-Help projects

For examples of non-Help projects created with RoboHelp, please follow the links below. Use these ideas to stimulate your thinking about what else you can create with a Help authoring tool.

Web sites created or enhanced with RoboHelp:

  • ClarityFirst is a professional group that specializes in technical writing, Help authoring, and software testing. ClarityFirst's entire Web site is based on RoboHelp's WebHelp format. Note the unique skin and multimedia elements, including tutorials created with RoboDemo. Also note how the Index, Search, and Glossary functions help visitors understand the site. To see this example, click here.
  • Orion Studios is a developer of multimedia software products for the PC with four software titles released to date. Although their FlashHelp example shows a standard Help system, it illustrates how easily a Help framework can include Web pages — and conceivably be used as the navigation system for a Web site. To see this example, click here.

Product overviews:

  • Web2CAD is a German-based company that develops software solutions and services, which include PowerParts on Web, an international parts library. This WebHelp example has many elements of a product overview in that it demonstrates through a series of simple, animated GIFs how the product works. To see this example, click here.


  • Write, Pix & Sound is a professional group skilled in managing technical communications, including online Help and software tutorials. This WebHelp system consists of a set of tutorials (created with RoboDemo) that were designed to support E-Transcript Manager, an application for managing courtroom transcripts. To see this example, click here.
  • The San Luis Obispo STC has a sample tutorial created using the FlashHelp format. Dreamweaver and CourseBuilder were used for the quizzes and assessments. To access this example, called “Preparing a Project Plan: An Interactive Tutorial,” click here.
  • To see a review of RoboHelp X5 that was written as a result of creating the “Preparing a Project Plan” tutorial, click here.

Photography courtesy of Macromedia, Inc. (photo of RJ Jacquez) and Michael Raphael (photo of local audience). All other images used with permission of Macromedia, Inc.

A Live RoboHelp X5 Demo from Macromedia:
Help Authoring Tools Are Not Just for Creating Help
Date: Monday evening, May 24, 2004

RJ Jacquez is the Product Manager for RoboHelp for FrameMaker at Macromedia, Inc. RJ has fourteen years of experience with Adobe FrameMaker, including eight years as a professional FrameMaker instructor. He has also lectured about FrameMaker on behalf of Adobe Systems at that company's "Beyond Word Processing" seminars.

While formerly serving as Vice President of Technology at Quadralay Corporation, maker of WebWorks Publisher, RJ gained extensive experience in the areas of single-sourcing, ePublishing, and Help authoring. Most recently, RJ has led a team at Macromedia to develop an entirely new single-sourcing tool specifically designed for use with FrameMaker.


A Live RoboHelp X5 Demo from Macromedia: Help Authoring Tools Are Not Just for Creating Help. This demonstration was designed for Help authors and information designers who wanted to learn how to use RoboHelp to develop or re-purpose content in online Help systems, as well as in non-Help projects, such as online tutorials and Web sites.

Door Prize: We gave away an assortment of Macromedia goodies, including a $500 RoboDemo software package.


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