About every 18 months Adobe releases a new version of RoboHelp. I, like many others, anticipate its arrival with bated breath, wondering whether there’s sufficient reason to justify the investment in time and finances to warrant an upgrade. It seems to me about half the time the answer isn’t exactly a resounding yes, sadly. So what about RoboHelp 11? Let’s answer that by looking at the major new or upgraded features.
Firstly, and clearly where the folk at Adobe have been burning the midnight oil, is the Responsive HTML5 output. For many people that phrase won’t mean much, so to explain…
In RoboHelp 10, Adobe introduced us to “Multiscreen HTML5”, a way of producing specific outputs that were individually constructed to show or hide navigational elements (Contents, Search etc.) as deemed appropriate for each specific device type – iPhone, Android Phone, iPad, Android tablet, laptop, etc. – one output skin per device type. To be frank, RoboHelp implemented this in a way that is simply too inflexible or too hard to customize for most RoboHelp authors.
The alternative approach is to produce a single output that cleverly hides or shows navigational elements depending on the browser window size – on a smartphone most navigational items are hidden behind icons (so only the topic is shown), whereas on a large desktop computer display all items are available all of the time. This approach is known as “Responsive HTML5”, and is new in RoboHelp 11.
Adobe have done a good job of introducing this new feature. Unlike the introduction of Multiscreen Layouts in RoboHelp 10, the skin editor for changing the Responsive HTML5 layouts, icons, fonts, colours, and so on, is easy to understand and use. RoboHelp comes with two template layouts and the promise of more to be downloadable (though sadly none yet available). There are a few limitations, such as no obvious settings to customize when the full desktop screen layout becomes active or where the navigation icons for laptops/tablets are situated – but these are relatively minor gripes and hopefully they will be resolved either in downloadable layouts or RoboHelp updates. For most RoboHelp authors who need their output to be viewable on phones, tablets, laptops and desktops, Responsive HTML5 is undoubtedly the best option.
Improved Microsoft Word Output
The second feature worthy of praise is the way you can customize headers and footers when generating Microsoft Word document. In RoboHelp 11, the Word document you generate can immediately include headers and footers of the type you would choose to create if you authored directly in Microsoft Word itself.
This is achieved by creating a set of Master Pages purely for Printed Documentation output, one per section, and optionally different ones per first/odd/even pages in each section, and placing in each of them the specific items they need, such as “Chapter Name”, “Page No.”, corporate logos, etc. During the generation you simply choose the relevant master page for each section of the Word document.
Cloud-based Resource Sharing
A third useful feature extension is cloud integration for the resource manager.
For multi-author, multi-project environments, the resource manager enables the sharing of items (e.g. corporate imagery), that are common to multiple projects. In RoboHelp 11, the location of such information can now include cloud services such as Dropbox, Google Drive and Skydrive. So now all sorts of items that probably should be shared across projects, including entire topics (e.g. “Legal Notices” or “How to use this help”), can be stored in one cloud-based repository, and when one of those items is updated, each project is notified of the change and the RoboHelp project author chooses whether or not to accept the update.
In addition to the three features I’ve picked out above, RoboHelp 11 also naturally includes support for the latest web browsers, Windows, Office and Captivate software.
So, in response to whether RoboHelp 11 justifies the investment – for most RoboHelp authors, the answer is a resounding yes.
For Adobe-Certified RoboHelp 11 training see Armada Training.
To view samples of Armada’s recent work, including responsive design, see our samples page.