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Adobe Seminar -- Nice Connection and Demo, But Questions Seemed Filtered

by Tom Johnson on Jan 25, 2007
categories: technical-writing

adobeI attended the latter half of the RoboHelp 6 webinar from Adobe today. I learned about the webinar on Scott Abel's excellent and always timely blog, The Content Wrangler.

First I have to say that I was both impressed and frustrated by the RoboHelp webinar. I was impressed by the new RoboHelp features — the simple ability to identify conditional tags at the topic level, the integration of Captivate, the launching of a new screen capture program, the ability to drag and drop conditional tags onto entire topics, the integration of Acrobat Elements, the inclusion of variables, team authoring, and a few other enhancements. They even said they were considering selling a package deal of RoboHelp with other Adobe products.

But I was also frustrated by the moderator's handling of the webinar. The connection was fine, but the questions they showed as being asked seemed a bit filtered. I asked at least two questions to the forum that were totally ignored -- one particularly about indexes. This is and still remains one of the main problems with RoboHelp for me: the index doesn't work at the character level.

Let me explain. Index keywords are all stored at the topic level. When you export to printed documentation, the topic keywords are jammed into the heading of that topic. But what if your topic spans 2-3 pages? With the drop-down hotspots, which allow you to compress information in expanding links, this 2-3 page span is more likely. Well, your index will be all screwed up. The index keyword that refers to the last part of the topic will point the reader to the wrong page. The only solution is to keep your topics very short. However, when you throw in a couple of screenshots into your procedure, you're sure to go over one page.

What we're doing to overcome this is use concordance tables. Yes, the old backwards, totally-not-practical way of indexing a Word document!

I asked the webinar moderator if the Adobe RoboHelp team planned to provide an index at the character level. No response. Near the end of the webinar, the moderator was looking to see if all questions had been answered. I reminded him of my question and asked him to please address the issue of topic-level indexing. No response.

What was really interesting was that the webinar guy mentioned some comments made about RoboHelp in a podcast. He was surely referring to this podcast with Mike Hamilton on Tech Writer Voices, but when I asked the moderator what podcast he was referring to, here was the response I got:

That would be... no response. I then asked if the webinar moderator wanted to do a podcast on RoboHelp 6 for Tech Writer Voices.

Again, no response.

At the same time, the moderator was answering questions like, how much does the product cost? Is an upgrade included in the maintenance plan? Does it work with other versions of Captivate, etc?

This is the problem with Adobe. They are large, corporate, and inaccessible. They aren't transparent. [Update: I had to strike this after discovering Adobe's RoboHelp blog.] I don't believe they'll put much effort into further RoboHelp development. They say they don't disclose specific information on upgrades and enhancements, but they did say RoboHelp is on an "accelerated track." Why be so secret? They'll only drag out the life of the product for another 2 years before customers get tired of the lack of development and jump ship.

Why can't there be an Adobe RoboHelp team blog? Or would that bomb because the new RoboHelp team members are all based in Bombay and that wouldn't look good for Adobe?

Adobe, are you listening? Or are you too big to listen? (Update: Again, I crossed this out after discovering their very promising looking blog.)

At least you did listen to my podcast.

If you're looking for a good deal on RoboHelp 7, check out this copy of Adobe RoboHelp from eCost Software.

About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm an API technical writer based in the Seattle area. On this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, AI, information architecture, content strategy, writing processes, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation course if you're looking for more info about documenting APIs. Or see my posts on AI and AI course section for more on the latest in AI and tech comm.

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