32 Replies Latest reply on Aug 18, 2008 11:32 AM by rccrcoleman

    New to RoboHelp and help authoring

    rccrcoleman Level 1

      I am new to RoboHelp and help authoring. Please excuse my lack of skillful use of language/ lingo. I have a help file that my company used for a client-server application. I need to adapt it for an upcoming Web application. I don't have the first clue where to begin or what to do. I've been told to save the help file to a new location to see if it builds another tree structure. I've also been told to save each (project within the help file?) individually and to test first. I guess my first question is how do I go about saving/storing each element of the help file individually? What is the best structure for the web? Honestly until I get to a training class I'm hoping someone will take me under their wing and give me some guidance. I realize that's a mighty tall order. I'm praying for a miracle and hoping there is an angel out there just waiting in the wings to rescue me!
        • 1. Re: New to RoboHelp and help authoring
          RoboColum(n) Level 5
          Hi rccrcoleman and welcome to heaven You'll find these forums full of useful tips and RH related information.

          First off, you need to ask where the help will reside as this will help you decide what type of help file output to use. If you have a web application, it is likely that it will be web based which normally means you will have WebHelp output. If you open a RH project you'll this listed in the Single Source Layout folder. Try double clicking on this on a test project and just accept all the defaults. You'll end up with some output for you to look at.

          I have a lot of questions myself about the existing help file. Was it created in RH? If so, what version? What format is it in? Unfortunately these are just your starter for ten but we need to know these answers before advising further.

          Please feel free to post back on anything I've said. We were all in your shoes at some time or another and remember it well.
          • 2. Re: New to RoboHelp and help authoring
            RoboColum(n) Level 5
            Sorry I should have said that testing just part of the existing help file should be fairly easy. Just copy the directory where your source files exist in Windows Explorer. Then open up the copy in RH. There you can play to your hearts content.
            • 3. Re: New to RoboHelp and help authoring
              MergeThis Level 4
              Then, of course, you have to be sure that you're opening the RH project source files, not the output.


              Good luck,
              Leon
              • 4. New to RoboHelp and help authoring
                rccrcoleman Level 1

                First two stupid questions are: how do I determine where the source files are and how do I make the distinction between the source files and the output. Seriously when I said I was clueless it was obviously a huge understatement.
                Also, from the information I've been able to gather, the help files I'm converting were created in RoboHelp v5 and the format is HTML. Can't be 100% positive on the version, it's a long story that makes me cringe, so for all intents and purposes I'm going to say v5 is my final answer. I swear if I can get through this I'll be master of the universe or at the very least I'll certainly feel that way.
                • 5. Re: New to RoboHelp and help authoring
                  rccrcoleman Level 1
                  Also, if I locate the 'source file' and copy it how then do I go about opening it in RoboHelp? I swear I wouldn't blame anyone for walking away in total disgust at this point.
                  • 6. Re: New to RoboHelp and help authoring
                    MergeThis Level 4
                    In V5, you're looking for any folder that contains filenames with .xpj and .cpd extensions (among others).

                    Launch the .xpj file to open the project. In the Project Manager tab, see which is the default Single Source Layout (that's the output that was being generated the last time someone worked on it). Right click on that and select Properties.

                    The first dialog will tell you: 1) where the output was being generated and what the Start Page was named; 2) what Conditional Build Expression was used; and 3) what the Default Topic (the first topic that displays when the help is launched) was named.

                    Digest that much and come back for more (wouldn't want to force-feed you at first).


                    Good luck,
                    Leon
                    • 7. Re: New to RoboHelp and help authoring
                      RoboColum(n) Level 5
                      If I may add to Leon's post, this does presuppose that the source files were created in RoboHelp. Something that I don't think we have yet established. In fact I don't think we have even established what type of output was produced last time around.

                      Anyway your source files will be a collection on mainly .HTM files (one for each help file topic) in a folder somewhere. Ask around and see if anyone can give you a clue as to where they may be. The Developers maybe able to help or is there someone who was the boss of the person who originally wrote the help?
                      • 8. Re: New to RoboHelp and help authoring
                        RoboColum(n) Level 5
                        Also you say they need you to update the help. What format is the help currently in and where does it reside (e.g. a single file on a PC or multiple files on a server/website). Many thanks.
                        • 9. Re: New to RoboHelp and help authoring
                          rccrcoleman Level 1
                          I have sent an e-mail to a few of my co-workers that can help clear the fog. I'm going to paste the questions I've asked and I'm hoping you can indicate whether or not I'm asking the right questions. Text surrounded by () are mearly my assumptions at this point. I've asked these folks to correct me if my assumptions are incorrect.

                          Where do the help files reside now?

                          Where will the help files reside in the Web application?

                          Were the existing help files created in RoboHelp? ( yes.)

                          What version? (assuming v5 but this only an assumption.)

                          What format? ( HTML)

                          Where are the source files now?

                          • 10. Re: New to RoboHelp and help authoring
                            RoboColum(n) Level 5
                            That is pretty much spot on rccrcoleman although I'd start with the last question as unless you have the source files you are potentially facing having to recreate ALL of them. If the old help was in a Microsoft HTML (.CHM) file there are ways you can use to extract the source files from it but we'll cross that bridge only if we have to.
                            • 11. Re: New to RoboHelp and help authoring
                              rccrcoleman Level 1
                              I've yet to receive any response to my emails. What I have been able to determine with a reasonable amount of certainty is that our current Help project was written using Robohelp v5 and is in HTML format. The current help files were originally on a PC that experienced a hardware failure that is currently inaccessible. They were able to get the files off the hard drive though. I know the location of those files so if they are considered the source files then I'm golden. I have placed a copy of the folder containing those files in my employee folder (actually I'm in the process of doing it as I type this). I will be updating the files in RoboHelp HTML v7. I feel as if I'm trying to diffuse a bomb when I've never seen one in my life. Which of course is true thank goodness- I guess if I had to choose between my current dilemma and the bomb diffusing I'm not in such a bad situation after all. How am I doing so far?
                              • 12. Re: New to RoboHelp and help authoring
                                rccrcoleman Level 1
                                While the files were being copied to my employee folder I received the following error message.
                                ERROR COPYING FILE OR FOLDER
                                Cannot remove folder Buttons. The filename or extension is too long.
                                Uh oh? I'm comparing what is currently in my folder against the folder I copied. I would expect them to be identical and they aren't. Massive confusion is beginning to set in.
                                • 13. Re: New to RoboHelp and help authoring
                                  lmarden Level 2
                                  Just out of curiosity, where is your employee folder? If it is on a network, you won't be able to work on the project from there. Project files must be stored on a local hard drive for consistent and expected results (unless there is version control in place).

                                  If you are trying to load the folder on a network drive, try instead to copy them to the hard drive on your workstation.
                                  • 14. Re: New to RoboHelp and help authoring
                                    RoboColum(n) Level 5
                                    OK we are getting there.

                                    Before we go any further though can I check what you mean by "employee folder"? The reason I ask is that you must not work on the source files if there are located on a network drive. By all means backup to a network drive but ALWAYS work from a local drive. The reason for this is that RH uses an Access DB which are well known to have problems when run over a network.

                                    So you should now have a set of files. One of them will be .XPJ file and this is the one you will need to open with RH. It is your project file. If you open it in RHv7, it may take awhile as this version updates the source files to effectively rewrite them. Without going into a lot of detail, previous versions wrote the underlying HTML using an old standard. RHv7 doesn't. This does mean that once you open your project in RHv7 you can not open it again in an earlier version. For this reason I'd strongly recommend you take a copy of your source for good measure before you do anything else.

                                    Once your project is open, have a look around and you'll find a list of topics. Open one up by double clicking on it and you can edit away.
                                    • 15. Re: New to RoboHelp and help authoring
                                      RoboColum(n) Level 5
                                      Those of us who use RH a lot tend to have a folder called something like C:\RH Source that contains our source files with each project in a separate folder (e.g. C:\RH Source\Project1, C:\RH Source\Project2, etc.). Long path names can cause problems. If your source is buried down inside a folder hierarchy it may be best to try the above approach.
                                      • 16. Re: New to RoboHelp and help authoring
                                        Author care Level 2
                                        To add to Colum's comments, it's a bad idea to use the "My documents" folder.

                                        Use a directory directly off of the C drive. i.e. a REAL directory not a virtual one. This will protect your RH project against certain known issue that affect vitural drives....
                                        • 17. Re: New to RoboHelp and help authoring
                                          rccrcoleman Level 1
                                          Ok I have it on my C: drive in a folder titled Robhelp. It is identical to the file I copied so I'm thrilled. My IT guy wants me to work on the files from the network so that I don't lose my work. How can I make the IT guy happy while still working from my local. The IT guy has placed a copy of the source files in my employee folder (the name of the folder is IMPORTANT back up help). How do I backup to the network and keep any work safe?
                                          • 18. New to RoboHelp and help authoring
                                            lmarden Level 2
                                            quote:

                                            Originally posted by: rccrcoleman
                                            How can I make the IT guy happy while still working from my local.



                                            Tell him there isn't much of a choice, if your company wants a functional Help project and output.
                                            If he still protests, throw Cheeze Doodles and a bottle of YooHoo at him - that always appeases our IT guy.

                                            As for protecting your data - sure, that is vital. I just use WinZip to zip up my entire project directory structure every few days and I store the zipped "backup" in my employee folder on the network. There, the IT guys can include it on a system back up as often as they please.
                                            • 19. Re: New to RoboHelp and help authoring
                                              RoboColum(n) Level 5
                                              Even better get your IT guys to write a batch file that you can run each day (or schedule it to run automatically) that backs up the source to your employee folder. After all those cheeze doodles they must owe you something
                                              • 20. Re: New to RoboHelp and help authoring
                                                lmarden Level 2
                                                that's a good idea, sure. especially if they can do it remotely - they leave cheezy fingerprints all over my desk.

                                                • 21. Re: New to RoboHelp and help authoring
                                                  rccrcoleman Level 1
                                                  OK I'm checking with my IT guy about the batch file. He's on his (rare) lunch hour so he hasn't gotten back to me yet. I'm not sure what exactly a batch file is or how it works. I have heard of these batch files and seen the gear icons but that's the extent of my experience. In either case I'm wondering at this point if I'd be safe working on the files using the copy I put on my C drive? The IT guy has stashed a back up in some undiclosed location. I felt much better after he told me that. I'm hoping that means I can't mess anything up. I'd feel alot better working on these things if I knew there was a failsafe. As Colum said earlier :
                                                  Those of us who use RH a lot tend to have a folder called something like C:\RH Source that contains our source files with each project in a separate folder (e.g. C:\RH Source\Project1, C:\RH Source\Project2, etc.). Long path names can cause problems. If your source is buried down inside a folder hierarchy it may be best to try the above approach.

                                                  This seems to be the case in our folder as well at least from what I've been able to determine. I'm still in the process of trying to find the folder that contains filenames with ,xpj and .cpd extensions (among others)
                                                  • 22. Re: New to RoboHelp and help authoring
                                                    Pete Lees Level 2
                                                    Hi,

                                                    There are a number of free programs available for automating backups. We use BASK, which you can download from here:

                                                    http://www.5starshare.com/BASK-soft18055.html

                                                    You just tell it which files or folders to back up, where to store the backups, and how frequently to do so.

                                                    Pete
                                                    • 23. Re: New to RoboHelp and help authoring
                                                      Author care Level 2
                                                      Or just do a manual copy using windows explorer to your network storage location that's backed up ...
                                                      • 24. Re: New to RoboHelp and help authoring
                                                        rccrcoleman Level 1
                                                        Ok I'm looking through the folder and I'm not certain which file to open. I've found an .xpj file but its only 3 KB and that seems a little small to me. I've found a few .mpj files that are substantially larger. However I did open the 3 KB .xpj file and I'm seeing lots of pages with red x's through a question mark symbol, among other things. I'm don't know where or how to begin.
                                                        • 25. Re: New to RoboHelp and help authoring
                                                          RoboColum(n) Level 5
                                                          The .XPJ file is the one. It is quite a small file so don't worry about that. RH uses an Access database so you'll find that there are any number of other files created in your project directory. What you do depends on which files gets updated (e.g. the .HHC file is your table of contents, the .HHK file is your index, etc.). Don't worry much these at this stage as they are designed to be in the background and updated from withing the RH user interface.

                                                          If you have a lot of red x's that does signal a problem. This means that RH has lost contact with a file, normally because someone has moved/deleted a file from where RH expects it to be. For example if you craete a help topic, RH creates a file and updates the database. That file is created in your project directory. If you move/rename that file outside of RH (e.g. in Windows Explorer) RH will be unaware of this. For this reason you should ALWAYS rename/move/delete files inside RH.

                                                          Now as to where to go from here? It could be that you don't have all the source files. That's where I'd start first. Check how many topics are in your project and compare that to the number of .htm files in your project directory. If there are fewer .HTM files than topics you'll need to get the remainder of the source files.
                                                          • 26. Re: New to RoboHelp and help authoring
                                                            RoboColum(n) Level 5
                                                            Sorry I should have added that if you right click on one of those red x's and select "Properties" you should get a file name of the topic. You can use this to ensure you have all the source files.
                                                            • 27. Re: New to RoboHelp and help authoring
                                                              rccrcoleman Level 1
                                                              From what I can tell I have about 1282 topics (counted these myself, give or take, and I might add, there MUST be an easier way) and about 5 DO NOT have the red x. The red x is shown on the TOC but doesn't show up in the topic list. I printed a topic report and it indicates 2 topics, ...huh? When I click properties a screen pops up and I'm not sure what I'm looking for or how I proceed. Time to head home and throw an icebag on my noggin'. I'm hoping that my feeling of total helplessness/ hopelessness will be on its merry way soon.
                                                              • 28. Re: New to RoboHelp and help authoring
                                                                RoboColum(n) Level 5
                                                                Actually this doesn't sound as bad as was first suggested. If the red x's are in the TOC only this just means that the files are present, just not where RH expects them. In the properties dialog, you should see the General tab. The middle section should highlight the file name of the topic. If that file name is nowhere to be found you'll have to repoint the TOC at the correct file. Only you will be able to say which file but you can try using the "Find Topic" button to find it.

                                                                BTW if you run the Topic Properties report from the Tools menu it counts your topics for you. You can compare this by selecting files in Windows Explorer and selecting Properties that does the same.

                                                                I'd strongly urge you to batter heads together where you are to get yourself on a training course ASAP. We don't mind answering questions here for you but it would be better for your state of mind if you didn't have to answer us and wait for a response each time you falter. We are making progress but sooner or later your query will be time critical.
                                                                • 29. Re: New to RoboHelp and help authoring
                                                                  rccrcoleman Level 1
                                                                  Ok I think I might be on to something. I've obviously had more than my fair share of 'DOH....' moments. I hope I'm finally having an AH-HA moment. I appreciate all the time and help you've given me, all of you. I'm attempting to get the training I desperately need. It can't happen too soon as far as I'm concerned. Anyway I kept thinking about this .mpj file that my supervisor directed me to open when he first presented this delightful challenge to me. The topic properties report only indicated 2 topics in the .xpj file and Windows explorer indicated 9,102 files and 1537 folders. (Talk about breaking into a cold sweat. ). Anyway I looked within this .mpj file and see if there was an .xpj file and there was!! I copied this entire folder to my C drive. I opened the .xpj file and it shows nothing in the TOC.The topic properties report count is one off from my Windows Explorer. The topics listed under Topic List have red x's through them. For some reason I feel as if this is the file that I need. Anyway I need to head out for the weekend and think very little about this until Monday morning. Enjoy your weekend as well!
                                                                  • 30. Re: New to RoboHelp and help authoring
                                                                    RoboColum(n) Level 5
                                                                    AH-HA! You see this Technical Author lark is easy. Just don't tell the others

                                                                    We still a bit of an issue mind as the red Xs you describe would seem to indicate that your RH project has lost contact with where the files actually are. I'm wondering whether this may be bacause you have copied the files to their current location (a good thing) and the original project was set to run from a network (a bad thing). Could you try something for us and let us know the result.

                                                                    Can you note the file name of one of the files witha red X. Now click File > Import and select the file from the directory where your project now resides (if it is there). Does the red cross disappear? If so, repeat the exercise for the other files. You can multi-select to speed things up. It would also be worthwhile taking a backup before you start.....just in case.
                                                                    • 31. Re: New to RoboHelp and help authoring
                                                                      rccrcoleman Level 1
                                                                      Well the first import I did went well and I was totally pumped!! I found another to import and that went well also. It seems I will have search for the other topics and I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I thank you so very much for your help so far. You have gone above and beyond and demonstrated incredible patience!
                                                                      • 32. Re: New to RoboHelp and help authoring
                                                                        rccrcoleman Level 1
                                                                        I do have one question at this time- I'm getting a screen awsking me to uncheck if I don't want to overwrite the current files. I do have a backup of the files so I wasn't unchecking. I'm seeing duplicates of the topic. One with the red x and one without. Should I stop in my tracks, am I Ok, can I get rid of the duplicates later? Is this to be expected?