From RoboWhat to RoboWow: A Tale of RoboHelp 2017

At the beginning of a recent RoboHelp 2017 class, I asked my students to introduce themselves. I also asked them what they were hoping to learn about RoboHelp.

As I moved from student-to-student, the responses were typical of what I hear in just about every class. One student was hoping to learn how to work with RoboHelp’s styles. Another was really excited to work with conditional build tags, and yet another student wanted to learn how to create hyperlinks.

I then greeted to a student who politely introduced herself and, upon being asked what she most wanted to learn about RoboHelp said the following: “To be honest, I have no idea what that Robo-thing is. I don’t know what it does. And I have no idea why my boss sent me to this class. I’m not trying to be rude, but what is a Robo-whatever-you-called-it anyway?”

While I often have to explain what RoboHelp is to people who aren’t in the business of creating user assistance, user guides for software applications, or policies and procedures manuals, I had never had a student in a RoboHelp class who hadn’t first been told why they were being sent to class. After all, attending any class isn’t cheap.

I tried to explain to her that RoboHelp was a wonderful authoring tool that could create Help Systems for just about anything. Upon mentioning Help Systems, I’m pretty sure I heard the sound of crickets coming from where she was sitting.

Undeterred, I began my class and hoped she would come to love RoboHelp as much as I did. I wasn’t going to give up on her. I just needed to prove the program’s value to her… how it would help her in her job.

During a break, I learned that she was responsible for creating the employee policies and procedures documentation for her company. She told me that it was a book, was created in Microsoft Word, and was printed and distributed to each new employee.

“How many employees work at your company?” I asked.

“More than 20,000,” she said.

“How many books do you print and distribute each year?” I asked.

“At least 1,000, maybe more” she said. “And later this year we are going to have to overhaul the document, reprint it, and distribute it to everyone.”

More than 20,000 books? Printing that many books sounded like a lot of money to me. And a smile slowly formed on my face.

“What if you could take your Word document and convert it into an online knowledge base complete with images, videos, interactive buttons and hotspots, a search feature similar to Google, and more? Think of the money you’d save your company!”

“We don’t have the people for that, the expertise, or the budget,” she protested.

“RoboHelp can do it,” I told her, “And you’re all the talent you need to get the job done.”

She was intrigued. Her company spent thousands of dollars each year printing those pesky manuals. With every dollar precious, saving money was a company mandate. Perhaps this RoboHelp thing might be worth something after all.

She called the office and had them email the Word document to her, which she promptly retrieved. We opened the file. It was a well-formed document complete with a TOC, index, heading styles, and inline images. There were even hyperlinks.

During the afternoon 15-minute break, we sat down alone and got to work. We started RoboHelp 2017, went to the Import tab, selected Word Documents (*doc), and opened her Word document.

RoboHelp 2017 offers a time-saving feature to convert a Word document to a Help project

We were about a minute in… only 14 minutes left until the class was set to start again. At this point, a few of her fellow students joined us. I think they were eagerly anticipating a RoboHelp crash. I started to sweat a bit at this point. I stayed hopeful that things would work without issue, but you know what happens when you stare at software too hard!

During the import process, we had an opportunity to control the way RoboHelp would handle the content in the Word document (mainly the styles) as the new project was created.

We worked through and mapped the Word styles to the appropriate RoboHelp styles–perhaps the most labor-intensive part of the process–and took an entire four minutes to complete. Our break counted down to 10 minutes. A few more students joined us… coffee in hand.

Once the style mapping was complete, I clicked the OK button and then, on the last screen, we instructed RoboHelp to use the TOC and Index from the Word document in the new Help System.


It took RoboHelp another minute to complete the import process and when it was done… magic!

The TOC from Word appeared:

The content from Word appeared:

The Index? It was there. The images? There! Everything from the Word document was there in RoboHelp 2017, and we had eight minutes to spare.

RoboHelp 2017 delivers a hyperlinked index

Of course, we had a RoboHelp project, but not the output she could share with her boss back in the office. I had told her that RoboHelp could easily output web content accessible by any Web browser.

She was impressed at this point… and clearly seeing the potential value of “Robo-what-do-you-call-it?” If she could get the output zipped and emailed to her webmaster, they’d be able to upload it to a test server for the boss to play with. This was exciting stuff until she realized that the boss was on the road… no computer, only a smartphone.

And that’s when RoboHelp 2017 made a her fan for life.

On the RoboHelp Output tab, Generate area, we selected Responsive HTML5.

 

 

Minutes later we had a fully responsive Help System that would play equally well on a desktop computer (first picture below) or a smartphone (second picture below), which she sent to her web team. They posted it. He saw it. And the rest, they say, is financial history.

RoboHelp 2017 produces a desktop system with links, graphics and interactivity

As she finished zipping and emailing the project to her team, we noticed that the entire class had joined us on our mission. Everyone marveled at just how fast, and painlessly, RoboHelp 2017 had taken a Word document and created a powerful, interactive, and responsive Help System. We thought of celebrating for a moment, but just then the timer on our 15-minute break beeped and it was time to get back to class… time to learn more about the awesomeness of “Robo-what-do-you-call-it.”

You can download a free trial of RoboHelp 2017, and try out the Responsive HTML, Word conversion, and other features for yourself.

Kevin Siegel, COTP, CTT

Kevin Siegel is the founder and president of IconLogic, Inc. and the Chief Executive Officer for the International Council for Certified Online Training Professionals. He has written hundreds of step-by-step computer training books on applications such as Adobe Captivate, Articulate Storyline, Adobe RoboHelp, Adobe Presenter, Adobe Technical Communication Suite, Adobe Dreamweaver, Adobe InDesign, Microsoft Office, Microsoft PowerPoint, QuarkXPress, and TechSmith Camtasia. Kevin spent five years in the U.S. Coast Guard as an award-winning photojournalist and has three decades experience as a print publisher, technical writer, instructional designer, and eLearning developer. He is a certified technical trainer, a veteran classroom instructor, and a frequent speaker at trade shows and conventions. You can reach Kevin at ksiegel@iconlogic.com or kevin.siegel@iccotp.com.

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