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the follwing explanation pertains to Micrsoft HTML Help systems.
The process of linking a help call to a help topic consists of two steps:
First, the numerical value used as parameter for the help call is translated into a name in form of a string. This happens using the IDH.H file of the help project, looking like:
define# 4711 IDH_SETFAX
The second step links this name to a file in the help system. This occurs in the ALI-file of the help project and looks like:
You can generate the ALI-file from within RHO. Typically the IDH.H is read by RH and you manually link each entry to an existing topic. You can also generate the ALI-file in any other way - it's a simple text file - and use this file in RH. If you call your externally generated file <Projectname>.ali, RH will automatically use it.
The only possible trap would be the use of a version control system, which may replace you ALI-file with the one stored in its database. You can avoid this by manually checking the ALI-file in before opening the project.
Hope this helps.
If it is any encouragement, I have been using Notepad to create my .ali files for years. I don't do any of the context sensitive help from within RoboHelp and have never had any problems. Because of the way our developer generates the map IDs, we find this the easiest solution so I would say it is not only feasible, but desirable to edit the .ali file outside of RoboHelp.