13 Replies Latest reply on Jul 21, 2009 3:26 AM by Peter Grainge

    Reference source files outside project folder


      My company wants to create one large help project. However we don't want all the HTML source files to be stored in that project. We want to store these files in another folder outside of the project. I'll try to simplify the situation.


      I created a "RH Test Project 1" with a topic called "Welcome." When you look in Windows Explorer in the RH Test Project 1 folder, you'll see all of the files RH creates (.xpj, cpd, hhk, hhc, etc.). The "Welcome.htm" file is also in the RH Test Project 1 folder.


      I actually want this "Welcome.htm" file to reside in a folder I created called "RH Test Project src." If I copy the Welcome.htm file to my new src folder, my project contains a broken link, as expected. I don't want to import the welcome.htm file because that creates a copy that goes right back into the RH Test Project 1 folder (essentially I would have a "Welcome.htm" file in RH Test Project 1 and RH Test Project src folders).  All I want to do is to be able to reference the Welcome.htm file. I want to be able to edit and work with this file in RoboHelp but I don't want it to reside in my project folder. I want it to reside outside the folder.


      Desired structure:

      RH1 Project

      -- RH1.xpj


      RH2 Project

      -- RH2.xpj


      Source Folder

      -- Subfolder 1

          -- Welcome1.htm  ( I don't want either welcome.htm topics to be in the RH1 Project or RH2 Project file structures)

      --Subfolder 2

         -- Welcome2.htm

        • 1. Re: Reference source files outside project folder
          ElisaFnord Level 2

          Saving Rick, Peter, Leon, Pete, and everybody else some time: For heaven's sake, why do you want to do that?


          (Actually, we really do want to know. This is an interesting requirement.)


          I am 95% certain that you can't do this. RoboHelp works with source files under the assumption that source files live in the project folder. Even baggage files get copied into the project folder, and they aren't (strictly speaking) part of the topic structure.


          But I am eager to hear what the honchos have to say about this one.

          • 2. Re: Reference source files outside project folder
            MergeThis Level 4

            There've been a couple of recent postings dealing with the use of an intro splash screen. You might try searching "splash."



            Good luck,


            • 3. Re: Reference source files outside project folder
              Peter Grainge Adobe Community Professional (Moderator)

              You can have links to external files but they will not appear in your TOC, index or search. RH is not designed to work that way and I think that is true of the other main HATs.


              Define large and explain the reason for having the files outside the project. I am not seeing a reason in your post for wanting to do this. Maybe if that was understood, something else could be suggested.


              What version of RH are you using?




              See www.grainge.org for RoboHelp and Authoring tips

              • 4. Re: Reference source files outside project folder
                shoehoard1 Level 1

                We are  using RH 8.

                We are also using ClearCase.


                I'll try to explain the reasoning. Excuse me if I go about it in a roundabout way. We have a lot of repeatable and reusable content in our help files. We also have topics where the content can and should be cross-referenced for other applications. I don't want to create snippets or variables, I just want to reference the entire HTML topic in more than one application.


                Before switching to RH 8, we had eight individual help projects for Payables, Assets, Purchasing, etc. We want one "src" file with the 8 subfolders. Each subfolder will then contain its associated HTML topics, like so:











                We will then have one large help project called "All_Apps" (where the .xpj and other system files will reside at the root). We understand that RH likes it's source information to all be contained within the project folder. So right now our workaround is to use symbolic links (bold font below) that mirror our "src" folder. As you can imagine, looking at such a structure in Windows Explorer is daunting.



                   src (symbolic links)






                  src (symbolic links)





                src (original source content that the symbolic links are mirroring)






                Basically RH is forcing us to store the .htm files w/in each of the projects. Our software is integrated and some topics are relevant in more than one of our applications. Is it possible to create a different structure that RH will recognize without using symbolic links to help us achieve the referencing or cross-referencing that we desire?

                Thank you for your help. I called Adobe yesterday and logged an incident but after explaining this 8 times, they still only got "So you don't want to follow RH standards?" and then referred me to RH's online help.

                • 5. Re: Reference source files outside project folder
                  Peter Grainge Adobe Community Professional (Moderator)

                  What I am struggling with is you are saying that you want everything in one project but then go on to describe scenarios where you want to use some of those topics in the help for other products as if the help for those is in different projects.


                  Are you talking about a one author scenario? If you are, then you could have one project for everything and use conditional build tags and multiple layouts to get different sets of topics.


                  Bottom line is that for what you want, the topics have to be in one or more RH projects.


                  Another solution might be merged help where you could mix and match the child project outputs to create the help needed by any one customer. That means more than one project but might avoid the duplication you are seeking to get rid of.


                  If you truly only want one project, I don't understand your first question trying to find ways of having topics outside of it. It seems to me you do want more than one project but with the ability to use content across projects.


                  Please try again with the explanation.




                  See www.grainge.org for RoboHelp and Authoring tips

                  • 6. Re: Reference source files outside project folder
                    shoehoard1 Level 1

                    Bottom line is we want to keep our source files (.htms) in a separate directory structure outside of where our RH project is. Can that be done?

                    • 7. Re: Reference source files outside project folder
                      Captiv8r Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                      Hi there


                      The bottom line answer is no.


                      A source file is called a source file because it resides inside the project. It's like asking if you can have a planet but not have it be part of the universe.


                      Cheers... Rick



                      Helpful and Handy Links

                      • 8. Re: Reference source files outside project folder
                        shoehoard1 Level 1

                        Management would like me to pose the question as such:


                        “The source files will logically be part of the RH project but our question is can they be physically located in another folder that is not under the RH project?

                        If the File structure is:






                        Can a project located in the C:\RH\Project folder reference source files from C:\SRC?”


                        • 9. Re: Reference source files outside project folder
                          Captiv8r Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                          Hi there


                          Why is this so difficult for them to comprehend?


                          It's like asking if you can build me a house in Airzona. But the address should be in Florida.


                          You said at the beginning of this thread that you wanted to create one large project. So why not create folders inside the project that behave as you wish?


                          Cheers... Rick



                          Helpful and Handy Links

                          • 10. Re: Reference source files outside project folder
                            Peter Grainge Adobe Community Professional (Moderator)

                            Files must be in the project, end of story. That is why I asked some questions to see we could find a different solution but one that would avoid topic duplication.


                            See www.grainge.org for RoboHelp and Authoring tips

                            • 11. Re: Reference source files outside project folder
                              shoehoard1 Level 1


                              The scenario at hand is to have a single set of source documents that can be bundled either as one large project or many smaller projects. The issue with putting everything in one location (sub folder) is that there are over 25,000 topics to deal with and scrolling through them and managing them, as well as the performance when opening RH, is problematic.  What we as developers are trying to do is model the RH solution after the Microsoft Visual Studio paradigm where the source files are all included in a project, yet come from different locations.  If I get a tax break for having a house with an address in Arizona yet built in Florida, why not build it there? It seems to work quite well with boats registered in Delaware but not anywhere close to that state!!


                              Suppose I have the simple case of three projects I need to deploy separately for one client, yet as a single output for another? The file structure we’d want would be:








                              Based on current understanding, you are telling me that I need to have












                              This means I need to manipulate changes to a file in multiple locations rather than sharing the source.  If this is indeed what needs to be done we can manage that using symbolic links and images of the files, but in this case our file structure goes from 25,000 files to well over 150,000 as we have 7 projects we support.


                              It just seems to be a ridiculous limitation that source must reside under a project rather than in a set location as every other development tool we use (InstallShield, Microsoft Visual Studio, HP Mercury, et al) can handle this.


                              That being said, your time and input is appreciated.

                              - Niki, on behalf of Mgmt (who are not having difficulties in comprehending your responses, but are incredulous that software behaves this way based on past experience with other tools)

                              • 12. Re: Reference source files outside project folder
                                Captiv8r Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                                Hi again


                                No, that wasn't what I was saying.


                                You cite that many files will slow down RoboHelp. That's just a fact. Lots of files will slow any application down, not just RoboHelp. Sure, if you plopped all 25,000 in just one folder it would likely bring RoboHelp to its knees in short order. That's why you are able to have folders inside projects. Folders assist in organizing and speeding things along.


                                Content (Characters, Words, Paragraphs, Topics, Images) may have something called Conditional Build tags applied. That would seem to be what you need in this case.


                                So you might structure your project as follows:

                                C:\RH\Project (Source for entire RoboHelp project)
                                C:\RH\Project\Project1 (contains files specific to Project 1)
                                C:\RH\Project\Project2 (contains files specific to Project 2)
                                C:\RH\Project\Project3 (contains files specific to Project 3)
                                C:\RH\Project\Common (Contains files common to all projects and appearing in all)

                                In that setup you would be able to achieve what you are seeking. You would apply conditional tags to each of the project specific folders and files to exclude them from a build if you needed to build for a single project. Otherwise, if you need the overall project containing everything, you would have it.


                                Okay, so it would appear that management is incredulous that you aren't able to build a house in Arizona and give it an addres for Florida. I guess that's why the Dilbert comic strip is so popular.


                                Cheers... Rick

                                • 13. Re: Reference source files outside project folder
                                  Peter Grainge Adobe Community Professional (Moderator)

                                  I don't disagree with Rick that you can have 25,000 topics in one project but I am not sure either of us would recommend it. I think no matter how you structure things within that project, you will hit performance issues and maybe worse.


                                  Your basic requirement is to produce many outputs without duplication of topics. I think that is the way to look at it rather than focussing on the number of projects involved. For this merged help could be your solution, as I think I mentioned earlier in the thread.I have a merge set up with 12,000 topics but only around 4,000 in the two main projects. Beyond that on an older PC, I found performance issues. This gives me what I want and could work for you.


                                  Until about six months ago, I regularly got requests for help from a lady who maintained a very large project (over 100mb zipped after pruning). The last contact was because things were not working properly, again. I persuaded her to go with merged help and haven't heard from her since.


                                  The way it works takes a bit of planning but it is not difficult. You have a parent project which is effectively a shell. You then have child projects. Stuff you know will go in all outputs goes in one or more child projects.Stuff that may go in some but not others can go there too and be included / excluded from an output using Conditional Build Tags or it can go in other child projects. Stuff unique to Product A goes in a child project for Product A, likewise with other products.


                                  When the whole help has been generated, you can remove any output from the total output and the end user will see just what you want them to. So they could see the Common Stuff + Products A and B but not Product C.


                                  I think you will get better results if you focus on what outputs you want and how to avoid duplication than if you focus on a single project.


                                  You also mention that your development tools work in a different way. Sure they do. They are development tools, not help authoring tools.


                                  We could debate this forever, and I do understand why your management might think it is a good idea, but the plain fact is I think you will just keep running into problems when you could achieve the objective in another way.


                                  I wish you luck and am just glad I will not have to work on that project.


                                  See www.grainge.org for RoboHelp and Authoring tips