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10 Reasons Not to Upgrade to Robohelp 6

by Tom Johnson on Feb 7, 2007
categories: technical-writing

RoboHelpAlthough I currently use RoboHelp 5, I can think of at least 10 good reasons not to upgrade to RoboHelp 6.

1. Communication from Adobe is bleak.

Have you ever posted a comment on their blog? After I finished the RoboHelp podcast on Tech Writer Voices, I posted a comment on the Adobe RoboHelp blog letting them know about the podcast. I assumed my comment was in moderation, but apparently it was filtered. Maybe Adobe didn't like the podcast.

I followed up to ask if the comment got lost in the moderation queue. No response. Today I just checked again and saw that someone else's comment had been approved. Vivek Jain, Adobe's RoboHelp blogger, either is totally clueless about responding to comments, or he doesn't understand that a blog is not a PR marketing vehicle. But even the senior project evangelist, R.J. Jacquez, seems like he's a mute. Sorry Adobe, but you really get a D when it comes to communication.

2. RoboHelp doesn't support character level indexing.

This is probably the biggest strike against using RoboHelp as a single sourcing tool. If all you create is online documentation, the printed documentation indexing glitch isn't an issue. But if you do output to print, your index will never be accurate because all the keywords are crammed into the topic headings rather than where they appear in the document. So if your topic spans 3 pages, and the keywords relate to the last page, the index will point the reader to the first page, where the header is.

3. RoboHelp doesn't support cross references.

If you link to another topic in the online help, when you output to printed documentation, the link doesn't translate into a cross reference. So basically you would have to manually do all your cross references, or use a touchy macro workaround.

4. RoboHelp isn't compatible with Word 2007.

RoboHelp isn't compatible with Word 2007 (nor with Vista), so when Vista and Office 2007 become mainstream, Adobe will either have to fix or bury RoboHelp. If they bury it, they will anger an immense group of RoboHelp users who recently spent $500 for the upgrade.

5. RoboHelp requires at least 15 macros to clean up printed documentation output (e.g., numbering).

I don't know how anyone who outputs to printed documentation with RoboHelp can go straight to PDF without extensive cleanup. I run at least 15 macros in my output before the output is acceptable. Numbering is particularly problematic. I guess this all depends on your printed documentation style.

6. With RoboHelp, figure references are problematic.

Let's say you refer to screenshots in printed documentation with figure references, such as See Figure 5, and so on. If you're using RoboHelp as a single sourcing tool, and selecting different topics and arrangements for your print layout, the placement of "Figure 5" may change wildly with each output. This is essentially the same problem as the cross references, and there is no easy workaround.

7. RoboHelp's command line compile doesn't work on networks.

I don't use the command-line compile feature, but if I did, I would be pretty upset about it not working across a network. Shouldn't that have been disclosed in the release notes?

8. RoboHelp's style pane is not undockable.

If you structure your writing with styles, RoboHelp's style editor may just about drive you crazy. It doesn't undock, you can't change the order (the default arrangement is always alphabetical), and most frustrating, if you change the name of a style, everything that previously had that style applied to it requires re-application of the style with the new name.

9. RoboHelp's interface is 1996.

Everytime I open RoboHelp, I think I'm going back to 1996. The whole interface needs upgrading. Put in some Ajax. Get some better graphics. This may be a small point, but c'mon. I get the feeling that what's on the outside reflects the inside.

10. RoboHelp's apparent ease of use is only because you've been using it for 10 years.

If people say that RoboHelp is easy to use, consider how long you've been using it. Almost everything gets easy to use when you use it constantly.

By the way, Monkey PI recently wrote a great post about RoboHelp that I recommend as good blog reading.

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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