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Welcome to the forum.
This is difficult to answer as so much depends on what you want to do and you haven't told us that. The use of FM suggests that printed documentation is important to you. Most producers of printed documentation will also require a PDF program so Acrobat will be relevant to you. I believe the rule of thumb is that if you need just two of the four programs in the suite, it makes financial sense to buy it even if you never use the other two. That might be the one reason for you buy it.
You have mentioned RoboHelp which makes me question why. Is there a new need for online help or have you been producing it in some other way, and if so, how? If there is no need for online help, what is it that is fueling your interest in RoboHelp. What outputs do you need? The response to these questions will help me and others to give you a better answer.
Thanks for the response and questions.
We have, up to now, produced printed manuals only. (Also, PDFs of the complete manuals are available online at our customer website.) We are now expanding our documentation so that help will be available in the product itself, in the form of either context-sensitive pop-up windows (describing individual features), or how-to instructions for different workflow scenarios commonly used by our customers.
One thing that appeals to me about the Tech Comm Suite is that I can integrate FrameMaker files into Robohelp to create help files. This would mean that the information would come from one source, preventing inconsistencies between manuals and online help, as well as not having to reinvent the wheel, content-wise!
But because I have no experience with online help, it's hard for me to evaluate the Tech Comm software beyond that. I just don't have enough of a grasp on what the goals are beyond a superficial level.
I don't expect anyone here to give me that answer. :) I was just hoping someone might be able to suggest some appropriate reading, on the order of "online help for dummies" (but NOT "Robohelp For Dummies", which I've discovered does exist). I'm not looking for an overview of the tool, but rather, for an overview of the process (and purpose) of creating online help - hope that distinction is clear.
You could try the following:
Designing and Writing Online Documentation, 2nd ed
Published by Wiley Technical Communication Library
The first section is entitled Going Online, with the following subsections:
What is Online Documentation?
Should Your Document Go Online?
Myths About Online Documentation
Types of Online Documentation
Putting These Ideas to Work.
You might be able to find the TOC and a couple of chapters online at Amazon - not sure if it'll be listed or not.
The second edition was printed in 1994, so there might also be a more up to date version about.
I think the RoboHelp for Dummies is very old. Also be aware that the RH7 book you will find on Amazon is for a version produced many years ago. For some reason Adobe decided to continue the numbering from version X5 but drop the X. That means there are two version sevens! Hopefully the list Amebr has given you will meet your reading requirements.
Can I just something else about your general requirements. You state your requirement is...
"We are now expanding our documentation so that help will be available in the product itself, in the form of either context-sensitive pop-up windows (describing individual features), or how-to instructions for different workflow scenarios commonly used by our customers."
When your developers call the online help, they can call it so that you just get the topic you want the user to see. If the user then wants to see other areas of the help, there is no TOC or toolbar. Instead they will first have to click a link titled "Show" (by default). You can however call the help so that the TOC, toolbar and the context help appear. Personally I prefer that as the user can see there is much more to the help. If you want to present your help that way, see the topics on my site about calling webhelp, in particular the one using URLs.
I'm not sure how the developers will end up doing it. At the moment they have created a prototype of the help which brings up essentially a TOC. It's in Windows Explorer mode - high level topics are closed, but if there's anything inside those topics, there is a plus sign you can click to open it, and so on down the sub-levels until you come to an actual topic. That appears in the right-hand pane.
However, that architecture might not be the final one. So I'm not sure exactly what I'll be working with. I appreciate your feedback because I don't know enough about it to have an opinion about which type is better.
sorry for jumping in on this thread, but was wondering: how long do you think it would take to get a working knowledge of Robo Help, considering I don't know framemaker, but only simple programs like MS Office, photoshop, pagemaker, etc.?
That sounds like they plan on using the topics that will be created to pop up just that topic. Difficult to say without seeing it but that's my reaction. That takes away functionality from the user and means you don't control the structure. The user loses the index and the search, although the developers might be adding a search of their own. You lose control of the structure. Make sure you liaise with the developers.
Use the trial version to produce some online help, or just look at one of the supplied samples, to look at the design and compare it with what your developers are producing.
Welcome to the forum.
Why post in this thread? It means a perfectly valid question will be hidden from someone else with the same problem. It also makes it difficult to deal with the original post.
Please edit the above post and replace it with something like "Question now in new post" and then create a new post. Someone will respond.