9 Replies Latest reply on Apr 24, 2008 2:06 PM by Tech Writer KC

    automating building help

    Tech Writer KC Level 1

      I've been asked to try and have our help building processes completely automated. Currently there is no automation to our process - as changes are made to the programs, I create or edit the necessary documentation (either from within RH or from Word docs and then import them into RH) and then manually create the updated help files and save them out to the designated network spot.

      How much of this can be automated? How easy, feasible, and/or dependable is such automation?

      I personally don't have a problem with the current process, but the manager who asked me sounds adamant about making the process automated and my own concern is that trying to automate will end up causing more headaches than anything due to the normal nature of most software...

      (PS: currently we use RH 5, but we are upgrading to RH 7).
        • 1. Re: automating building help
          Gravenstein Level 2
          Starting with RH6, you have the option of using RoboHelp's command line compile, rhcl. I have started using it for our RH6 help projects, and am pleased with the results.

          The command line compile allows you to specify an output location that is different than the one listed in your SSL, which is very convenient.

          There is one bug that you might run into: if you copy the source projects to a new location before performing the command line compile, there's a path in the project.pss file that does not update correctly. It's the Language line. It sometimes (but not always ) retains its original path. As a result, the rhcl process reports a bunch of errors at the end. My workaround was to place a replica of the "missing" file (robohhre.lng) in the expected location. Kludgy, but it works.

          Using the command line compile, automating your process should be do-able. You might have to play with it for a bit to get the results you want, but it's pretty straightforward.

          • 2. Re: automating building help
            MergeThis Level 4
            The thing to keep in mind is the automation/build/generation/publish conundrum, and how "managers" perceive each of those terms.

            The toughest fights I've ever had were in trying to explain to managers that the help, while included in the final build, does not need to be continuously rebuilt in one-on-one fashion with the application's builds. It's quite possible that the help built into today's build can be up to several days old. They keep insisting that they should have total control over the automation/build/generation/publish environment, when writers know in their hearts that that would be a disaster!

            Good luck fighting the good fight!
            • 3. Re: automating building help
              Captiv8r Adobe Community Professional & MVP
              Heh heh heh

              Just another personal anecdote here. I was once in such a position where the development staff (and manager) simply insisted that I place the .CHM file in their source control system. They were utterly convinced that I would not be able to recover work from the many hundreds of .CHM copies on CDs and everywhere. So I complied.

              About a month later they are all at my desk begging me to stop what they asked for! Oh, it seems that as I created new updates to the precious data inside the .CHM file, it was making copies (oh dear!) and consuming all their disk space! Bwa ha ha ha ha haaa (snicker)

              Cheers all... Rick
              • 4. automating building help
                ElisaFnord Level 2
                The part that makes me most nuts is that the push for a totally automated build is frequently driven by the convenience of the source control system! I remember pleading for command-line compile back in X3.1 days because the app was compiled from ClearCase, the ClearCase administrator didn't want generated help in ClearCase, and nobody wanted to trust me to keep an up-to-date .jar (did I mention the application ran on a Unix server?).

                Crazy. I wouldn't mind working for the machines - if the machines were the ones who paid me!

                • 5. Re: automating building help
                  Gravenstein Level 2
                  More agreement from me. The command-line compile makes automated build possible. Whether it's a good idea is a different story entirely, and it all depends on the larger context in your organization. For the way we do it, it should be a net gain.

                  As for RoboHelp + ClearCase, if I never have to source a large RH project in ClearCase again, it will be too soon! And after a dose of reality, our IT folks were MORE than happy to help us find a solution that didn't involve us taking up megatons of space in ClearCase.

                  • 6. Re: automating building help
                    MergeThis Level 4
                    In our organization, the IT folks were in the process of switching from VSS to Perforce (which I begged them not to do) when I was brought in to switch from Word pdf files to RH merged WebHelp. When they insisted that they would not support two CMS products, I told them the Doc group would not participate in their decision. Instead, our seven writers copy the folders for their source files on our own server, and publish the output to several server locations.

                    Good luck,
                    • 7. Re: automating building help
                      Tech Writer KC Level 1
                      Thanks for the command line info, and apologies for taking so long to respond (I'm sure you all know how busy work gets!).

                      Please excuse my noob question about command line, but is entering the command line still a manual step? My understanding is that the development manager wants something akin to having RH on a build machine where it is completely automated to build on its own every night at a set time.

                      Is "complete" automation possible with RH? Thanks for the info as well as the understanding and support! :)
                      • 8. Re: automating building help
                        MergeThis Level 4
                        The IT folks will create a script containg the command line and timing instructions.

                        Good luck,
                        • 9. Re: automating building help
                          Tech Writer KC Level 1

                          I have begun researching in earnest how to automate our RH build, as we've finally upgraded to RH 7. I am a bit intimidated by the task as I'm not exactly sure what steps are needed.

                          Our current plan is to install a copy of RoboHelp on our build machine, and then use Final Builder to run the command line that will build the help files. Has anyone done something similar to this? Is this recommended, or should a different process be used?

                          With the command line, is something like "rhcl myproject\myproject.xpj" all that's needed to generate each file? For the record, we have two separate help systems:

                          System 1 is our main help system, and consists of roughly 25 separate .chm files with one acting as the "master" file.

                          System 2 is a self-contained help file consisting of a single .chm.

                          With #1, is there anything we'll need to be aware of when it comes to building it? My assumptions (!) are that each project will need its own command line, and that the "master" file should be the last one compiled (similar to how we currently do it when manually recompiling).