Coffeehouse Thread

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PDF as Help?

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  • User profile image
    a235301

    We're currently using Robohelp 2002 to author help files for our shrink wrapped software.  We're looking at upgrading to the latest version of Robohelp and because we're on such an old version we're looking at $1k per copy now for each user.  That's way too rich for my blood for help authoring.

    One of the things I was thinking about was moving to using a pdf as the help file.  What am I missing by going to pdf?  I have a TOC, check.  I have search, check.  Hyperlinking, check.  Downside is acrobat or foxit have to be installed on the client machine but certainly that's pretty standard.  And by using either Acrobat or Foxit authoring tools I have a pretty cheap authoring tool in my hands. 

    Also open if someone can suggest an alternative to Robohelp that can convert the old 2002 projects.

  • User profile image
    Harlequin

    @a235301: Maybe something like this (http://dawningsoft.com/pdf-to-chm.html)? Turn your PDFs to CHM files would work I think. CHM files are easy to use.

  • User profile image
    W3bbo

    We're currently using Robohelp 2002 to author help files for our shrink wrapped software.  We're looking at upgrading to the latest version of Robohelp and because we're on such an old version we're looking at $1k per copy now for each user.  That's way too rich for my blood for help authoring.

    Also open if someone can suggest an alternative to Robohelp that can convert the old 2002 projects.

    Generally speaking PDF help files annoy me. They were originally used for storing electronic copies of the program's manual/user's guide, which itself is fine. However PDF is unsuitable for "help" files because there isn't any program integration (e.g. the "Help" or "What's this?" button). Even Acrobat itself doesn't use PDF for its help files (it's used pure-HTML since version 7).

    I'd stick with CHM. The "HTML Help Workshop" tool isn't too hard to familarise yourself with, and you get the benefit of program integration.

  • User profile image
    kettch

    @W3bbo:At least Acrobat doesn't use Air like Photoshop and others. It's easier to go to the web for help. If I use the built in help it invariably wants to spend 10+ minutes updating Air and content, by which time I've already gotten help from the web anyway. Even when it's updated it's still painfully slow and clunky to use. That's one advantage to CHM is that it's fast.

  • User profile image
    contextfree`

    These days it seems kind of silly to use anything other than HTML for documentation unless you have an existing investment in some other infrastructure.

  • User profile image
    W3bbo

    That's one advantage to CHM is that it's fast.

    Oh don't worry. I'm sure Microsoft is hard at working developing a cloud-based help system that applications can plug-in to. The client will be a WPF control hosted within an mshtml instance and the colour scheme will be hard-coded.

  • User profile image
    CarlB654

    Something like DocRaptor.com's pdf api might help convert the old projects. 

    I don't think you're missing anything by going to pdf. They're more and more common. 

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