Adobe RoboHelp – my wishlist (part two)

RoboHelp 11 review I recently wrote a blog with four of my wishlist items for Adobe RoboHelp (2015) release. I called it ‘part one’ for a reason, the reason being I’ve some more wishes…

1. Keyboard shortcuts for styles.

Many technical writers use keyboard shortcuts extensively and efficiently when typing with both hands instead of having to switch to the mouse. RoboHelp lets you customize keyboard shortcuts for a wide range of options (something a lot of people don’t know is possible), and while this is great, there’s just one important feature missing – styles. Headings and ‘Normal’ have predefined shortcuts assigned, but users really would benefit from being able to assign shortcuts to paragraph styles, character styles and other styles they’ve created.

» My wish: Add an option into the interface when editing styles, e.g. in the Style dialog, off the Format button, called “Shortcut key” that enables a keyboard shortcut to be added to the style being edited in the current project. (Now where did I get that idea from?!)

2. Improve RoboHelp’s own help.

A few versions ago (was it RH7?) RoboHelp’s own help system was, frankly, appalling. Thankfully it is much better these days. Still, though, in each release I’m a little disappointed that this market-leading Help Application Tool doesn’t have its own market-leading help system. Generally, it’s OK but lacks some useful information, has formatting/layout issues, and doesn’t make the most of RoboHelp features like expandable glossary items, drop-down sections, etc. One specific example: if you want to find out where features/commands have been placed on the new ribbon in RoboHelp 2015, you’d hope for some simple mapping table in the help that had ‘old menu name and option’ mapped to ‘new ribbon tab and option’. There isn’t one (well, I can’t find one). I searched for ‘ribbon’ in the help. The first result was a topic called “User interface enhancements”, which doesn’t say much about the ribbon and has a link to a topic called “Workspace overview” which refers to the ribbon as ‘tabs’ but provides no more information.

» My wish: Improve the quality of RoboHelp’s own help system so that the content, accuracy, usability and formatting of the help matches the quality of the product. Giving Adobe’s technical writers a little more time and resource to do a better job with the help system will not only allow RoboHelp users to use RoboHelp to its potential but also give the perfect real-world example of how great a help system can be when created using RoboHelp.

3. WebHelp adjustable navigation column width.

While much future RoboHelp output development will understandably be with the Responsive HTML5 output, something that has been frustrating for many years is that the default width of the WebHelp tri-pane is not adjustable from within RoboHelp. It can be altered if you want to edit a background file – but that’s not generally advisable. Some projects needs ToC entries that are long and in those situations a wider than normal tri-pane width would be ideal. Yes, users can adjust it but every time they close the WebHelp system and reopen it, it returns to the standard default width. There is so much that’s customizable from within the WebHelp Skin Editor dialog, surely adding a field that enables the default width of the output to be changed isn’t too difficult? It’s editable for HTML Help output.

» My wish: Add a field on the WebHelp Skin Editor dialog called ‘Default Tri-pane Width’ which has an editable pixel value, perhaps within restricted sensible limits.

4. Copy and paste as “text only”.

RoboHelp for many years when pasting text in from another application, such as MS Word, would only paste as ‘text only’ with no extra formatting. A couple of releases ago, however, RoboHelp started pasting formatting settings in as well as the text, e.g. font choice, bold, italic, etc. On some occasions this is advantageous as I want the format settings to carry through into RoboHelp. But, importantly, there are many occasions when I just want the text to be pasted into RoboHelp with no formatting. Similarly, there are times I have some text in RoboHelp and I want to quickly copy and paste just the text into another application and other occasions when I want to be able to copy the formatting as well. Yes, there are workarounds, but my wish would be to not need them.

» My wish: Add two more options to the standard two RoboHelp copy and paste options – with proposed keyboard shortcuts:

Copy with formatting (Ctrl+C)

Copy without formatting (Shift+Ctrl+C)

Paste with formatting (Ctrl+V)

Paste without formatting (Shift+Ctrl+V)

5. Attention to detail.

When I run RoboHelp training courses and try to extoll the virtues of the application, it’s frustrating when mistakes and inconsistencies are so obvious in RoboHelp that brand new users spot them. Here are two examples:

The icon used for “Save All” in various places in RoboHelp 2015 isn’t consistent. On the File ribbon tab, the ‘Save Component’ icon is a single blue disk and the ‘Save All’ icon is a red multiple disk icon (that make sense). However, on the Project tab the ‘Save All’ icon is the single blue disk and the tooltip when pointing the cursor at it is the same blue one. And, even more inconsistently, the ‘Save All’ icon on the Quick Access toolbar is the red one but the tooltip is the blue one! Ridiculous.

The tooltip for the ellipsis icon on the Edit ribbon tab for paragraph formatting is correctly labelled ‘Paragraph Formatting’. However, the tooltip for the ellipsis icon for font/character formatting is bizarrely labelled with a typographical error: ‘Charater Formatting’. And the same ‘Charater Formatting’ error appears in the ‘Customize’ dialog when customizing the Quick Access Toolbar. Embarrassing.

Over the years, these aren’t the only occasions when the impression users are left with is a product release that has great new features but that has been rushed without sufficient final quality checks.

» My wish: Take more time to quality check the product and the help system before each release, please.

Conclusion

OK, that’s a few more of my wishlist items for the next release of Adobe RoboHelp. Please do reply to this blog with any wishlist items you have … and maybe, just maybe, Adobe will take note and incorporate them. Thank you.

Adobe RoboHelp – my wishlist (part two)

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