Generating Online Help Systems using RoboHelp


Steps to developing a help system using RoboHelp

1. Create a project.
Every help system has at least one project. The basic element of the project is the topic.

2. Author the content.
Create topics. You can add multimedia now, or later when you customize the output. Work with the application developer to start planning which topics to also use for context-sensitive help. Context-sensitive topics appear when the user clicks a Help button in the user interface or presses F1.

3. Import files.
You can import HTML files, Microsoft Word files (.doc, .docx, .docm, .rtf), FrameMaker books and documents (.book, .bk, .fm, .frm, .mif), XML files (.xml), and Adobe PDF files (.pdf).

4. Develop the navigation.
Based on the hierarchy, or organization scheme, of the content, create links among topics and to external content if necessary. You can also link text or images to other content. Create a table of contents that reflects the content hierarchy, and include an index that users can browse. You can also create browse sequences; paths a user can follow through help topics. For example, if a user must read several related topics to understand a feature completely, you can link them in a browse sequence.

5. Customize the output.
You can apply layouts (which determine behavior and appearance) and formatting. You can also use conditional text to show or hide content, depending on user interest, application being used, skill level and other factors. Add multimedia to make your help more compelling and richer.

6. Create, test, and distribute the Help package.
Create the output so you can view the help and check links, formatting, and so on. Test every output you intend to distribute, including printed documentation.

Developing Web-Based Help System in RoboHelp

The very first thing you should do in developing a tutorial is to be familiar enough with the subject matter that you can write the content. Then you can go through the following steps:
  1. Start project in RoboHelp HTML
  2. Develop content in web pages
  3. Import pages into RoboHelp HTML
  4. Create a table of contents
  5. Create browsing sequence
  6. Index pages
  7. Compile
  8. Deliver tutorial

Starting Project in RoboHelp HTML

Start RoboHelp HTML. You will have to name your project, location for files, and name of the first topic.
You now have the option of using RoboHelp to develop your web pages or to use another, more familiar web-development tool such as Microsoft FrontPage or Macromedia Dreamweaver. If you use one of these tools, it is a good idea to develop the pages in another directory and then import them into RoboHelp. This is because RoboHelp adds special HTML code in many pages.

Develop Content

As you complete pages, you can import them into RoboHelp, or you can wait until you compete them all.
The first page of your content should have the same name as the first page you defined in RoboHelp. When you import it, you will overwrite the original file.

Import Pages into RoboHelp HTML

Once you are finished with your content, you can import all of your pages into RoboHelp. This is done from the menu: File > Import > HTML File.
If you have graphics files associated with your pages, they are also imported.

Create a Table of Contents (TOC)

The Help Table of Contents is the way to organize your material in a logical order.
  1. Click on the TOC tab to open the Table of Contents window on the left side.
  2. Choose the New Book icon on the menu bar. Name the book.
  3. Continue, as needed.
  4. Click the Topics tab under the right window.
  5. Drag topics beneath the appropriate books.

Create Browsing Sequence

Browsing sequence buttons can be included at the top of each page. From the menu bar, select Tools > Browsing Sequence Editor. You can often use the TOC Order sequence, unless you have special order to define.

Index Pages

An index is important for users to find what they want in a large online help. It probably is not as important in a small tutorial, since steps you usually in a sequence. But it still may be a nice feature to add for the user.

In this example, there is no index included.

Compile Tutorial

Once you have everything completed, you can compile the tutorial as WebHelp. This means you have your HTML pages, along with the typical help outline in the left window pane.
  1. To compile, from the menu, select File > Generate > WebHelp. RoboHelp will compile the files in a separate WebHelp folder.
  2. You have a choice of including a TOC, index, search, and browse sequences. In our application, we did not include the search capability.
  3. You can also format the help as Dynamic HTML or as a Java applet. To make sure you can use most browsers, choose Java.

Deliver Webhelp

Once you have compiled and tested your tutorial, you can copy all the files in the WebHelp folder to an appropriate place in your web site.

Style and Style Sheets

In Robohelp you can use style sheets to create your project. Style sheets are used at the project and the topic level.
Style Types in RoboHelp
  1. Inline styles: A block of text and its formatting within an HTML file formatted directly in Design Editor. If you link the file to a style sheet, inline styles override styles in the style sheetand embedded styles.
  2. Embedded styles: Style definitions saved in an HTML file (topic). If you link the file to a style sheet, embedded styles override the styles in the style sheet. You can create a characterstyle or a paragraph style.
  3. Styles in cascading style sheets (CSS): Style definitions stored in a CSS file. You can create a character style, a paragraph style, a list style, a multilevel list style, and a table style.After you convert a WinHelp project to an HTML - based project, styles are available as follows:
  • Project created from an HP J file: You can create styles that use the same formatting as styles in Word templates. These styles are saved in style sheets that are attached to the HTML topics. If you do not want style sheets, translate the Word formatting into inline styles in the HTML topics.
  • Project created from an HLP file: Preformatted style sheets are available to apply to HTML topics. Topics are formatted to use the default HTML styles.

Style sheets define the look and feel of a web page and design of the document. The style sheet tells the web browser how to render the document viewed.


References:

"Using Adobe Robohelp Html 10". 10 Oct 2012. <http://help.adobe.com/en_US/robohelp/robohtml/robohtml_10_help.pdf>.
Web Design / HTML, Webdesign.about.com. Web. 11 Oct. 2012. http://webdesign.about.com/od/beginningcss/a/aa021607.htm
Using Adobe RoboHelp HTML10. 11 Oct. 2012. PDF.

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Original Author: Larita Clow
Contributors: Inez Funchess
Editors: Wendy Anderson, Linda Page, Tammy Fitzpatrick