15 Replies Latest reply on Oct 1, 2008 12:07 PM by Linux Rules

    Comparison of RH7 to the "F" word - Flare 4

    gdavism2m Level 1
      All,
      This is my first post and it's a doozy. I am the sole technical writer at the business unit of my company. Our next version of our main software product is moving to the .NET platform which will require an overall of all documentation, including screenshots, icons and procedures. I currently create online help (in RH6) and printed installation and reference guides (in Word 2003). A lot of the same information is in the online help and the printed reference manuals. I recognize the need for single-sourcing and other technical writers in our corporation use Flare. My goal is to enter/revise the information ONCE and then reuse it in the online help and the printed documentation.

      So here is the $64,000 question: How does RoboHelp 7 stack up feature-by-feature to its arch-nememsis Flare 4? I apologize in advance for using such profane language here. :D

      Unfortunately being the sole technical writer doesn't give me the time to evaluate both versions so I was wondering if anyone knew of any resources that have done a direct feature comparison (i.e. Feature X, Flare 4: yes, RH7: no).

      Any help, suggestions, and comments would be greatly appreciated.

      Greg Davis
      Senior Technical Writer
      Consona ERP
        • 1. Re: Comparison of RH7 to the "F" word - Flare 4
          Frances_P
          We are looking into the same thing. I contacted MadCap software and spoke to them about a comparison between
          flare and robo and they are very very very helpful. These are the same people that built RoboHelp when it was owned by e-help so they can give you a comparison. I have a conference call set up with them and their IT people this week. I have been to their website and can tell you that they have wonderful documentation. You can also download a demo of the product which is helpful.
          • 2. Re: Comparison of RH7 to the "F" word - Flare 4
            Frances_P Level 1
            Also, go to their community forum. I posted a similar question in their forum and received responses from some of their users that was very helpful. Also the tone in their forum is much more lighter than the frustration tone in this forum. Good Luck and I'll let you know what we decide to do. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my superiors will let us go with Flare because I have no confidence in the robo product any longer. Also, I researched the cost of upgrading to Robo or going with Flare and for us it would be the same amount of money.
            • 3. Re: Comparison of RH7 to the "F" word - Flare 4
              RoboColum(n) Level 5
              Maybe the HATT Matrix would help? Mind you, I'd say that you should be asking more questions of Flare than if it generates true single sourcing output!!
              • 4. Re: Comparison of RH7 to the "F" word - Flare 4
                Peter Grainge Adobe Community Professional
                Be wary of that comparison document. It contains several things that are plain wrong. "No PDF output from RH" for starters. Other things are somewhat exagerated, such as the doubling of size the CSS file. Like jumping from 5kb to 10kb is significant.

                Why do you have no confidence in RH?

                It rather amuses me that on the one hand MadCap do comparisons to show RH in a poor light, then they say Flare is good because it comes from the team that built RH in a previous life." Can't anyone see the irony in that?

                Check out their printed output. In Word go to one of the headings and apply Word's Heading 1 style to a Flare output. See what happens to what you thought was a lovely heading 1. If you just want to use the document to create a PDF, it looks good. If you want to send it to a SME and have them edit it, see how much they love it.

                Of course there will be things in Flare that are better, just like RH is better at other things.

                I have always thought this is a very friendly forum and nobody gets flamed, or if they do, that soon gets jumped on. We all want people to feel free to ask any question without fear of feeling they will be considered stupid. I'd be interested to see some examples of the "frustration tone". Offline me via my site if you prefer on that.

                I am not saying Flare is bad or better/worse than RH. Simply to check it out properly before you commit yourself as you should with any tool. It doesn't do what I need and its coming up to Version 4. There will be Flare users who say RH doesn't do what they need and that will be true. There's room for both.

                I don't have a comparison for Greg. RH can give you what you want, one source for both online help and printed documentation. I have covered a key point about printed documentation. It may be that doesn't matter to you.

                Maybe this site will help. http://helpstuff.com/hats.html

                Ultimately though only your own hands on trial will tell you which tool provides what YOU want. It's not just what features you can tick, it's how they work that matters and we are all different in how we like things to work.

                • 5. Comparison of RH7 to the "F" word - Flare 4
                  MergeThis Level 4
                  Greg, you say "I currently create online help (in RH6) and printed installation and reference guides (in Word 2003)," and then further "My goal is to enter/revise the information ONCE and then reuse it in the online help and the printed documentation." Are you not already using the content from your online help project to generate your PrintDoc output? If not, why not?

                  The other curious thing is "I am the sole technical writer at the business unit of my company" being at odds with "other technical writers in our corporation use Flare."

                  If it were me, I'd download a trial version of both products and check out my comfort level with each one (which my boss and I have done for nearly a dozen HATTs over the past year). You need to make the time, because the wrong decision will cost you way more time in the long run.


                  Good luck,
                  Leon

                  overall > overhaul
                  nemensis > nemesis
                  • 6. Re: Comparison of RH7 to the "F" word - Flare 4
                    gdavism2m Level 1
                    Leon,
                    Yes I am using the same information in my help file and printed documentation but it is maintained separately in RH for online help and in Word 2003 for printed documentation. I am finding that if a procedure changes, I have to update it in RH and then again in Word 2003. Our online help and printed documentation have totally different formats and organization.

                    When I said I was the sole tech writer in my business unit but there are others in the corporation, I meant that our corporation has different business units around the country each with their own tech writers.

                    I know deep down that I need to make the time but like I said, being the sole tech writer doesn't afford me much eval time. I am going on what others have found. Plus I only have access to one machine and I thought you can't install RH6 and RH7 on the same machine.

                    Also I have noticed that there are inconsistencies in the documents that MadCap has published comparing Flare to RH7 and the lack of the same type of document from Adobe on why RH7 is better than Flare. I am looking for that type of document that compares RH7 to Flare from Adobe. Does one exist? That's one of the reasons I turned here.
                    • 7. Re: Comparison of RH7 to the "F" word - Flare 4
                      Linux Rules Level 2
                      Hello Greg -

                      My business unit is stuck in the past with RH X5 but other parts of the company use what ever works for them (world wide company).

                      I'll echo Leon - you really need to try a variety of products. Make the time now 'cause you won't have time nearing deadline.

                      Regards,
                      GEWB
                      • 8. Re: Comparison of RH7 to the "F" word - Flare 4
                        Peter Grainge Adobe Community Professional
                        Not aware of such a document as Adobe don't engage in that game.

                        My advice is as per my earlier post.

                        • 9. Re: Comparison of RH7 to the "F" word - Flare 4
                          Linux Rules Level 2
                          Hello Greg -

                          You said "I only have access to one machine..." - well, the HAT and your skills makes a living for your family. I recommend investing in a personal test box/work station. You can buy or build a decent machine for less than $500 US (a cheap investment in your future). I now have three at home, one personal/fun, one work related (stable) and one test box (beta/new stuff, play with operating systems, etc. - NO production work).

                          Regards,
                          GEWB
                          • 10. Re: Comparison of RH7 to the "F" word - Flare 4
                            Frances_P Level 1
                            Hi Peter:
                            I have no confidence in RH because I pay $1600 a year for technical support and can't get support. There is such a disconnect between ADOBE and their customers who do have RH. Let me correct myself we have RoboInfo. We have had Robo for the past 5 years. For the past 2 years when we have needed support and I call them they never have a record of our service contract. After I send them the information (after I've been transferred around the company at least 5 times, and am always transferred back to the first person I spoke to and put on hold longer and longer each time) then their standard response is to un-install and re-install. You would think that I would learn that after 2 years of this we wouldn't pay any more $ for support and just un-install and re-install to get it working. But now we can't uninstall and reinstall because then we lose it altogether because we can't get activated again. I suggested that they come up with a bogus default activation code that will work or be able to download the software from their site but have them remove the activation need from the program.
                            And being a paying support customer it would have been nice for them to let us know that they would not support our product or our version of RoboEngine any longer and not wait until our RoboEngine crashed and then we found out they wouldn't support our product any longer. We have to re-boot our servers every hour (or more) during the course of the day because it crashes.
                            I truly in my heart believe that this is not a product they really want to have in their cache of products, it is just one they inherited and they do not really care about it.
                            I tried to look at past posts in the RoboInfo community in order try to solve our problem, (I figure the historical files in the forum may be able to give me an idea because we can't be the only ones having this problem) but the past posts are not available. In general discussion it says there are over 200 posts, but when you go into it there are no posts, so what happended to those old posts?
                            I am not saying that people on this forum flame each other, but I sense a frustration with ADOBE that I don't see in the Flare forum. The good thing in this forum are people like you who are experts with RH are more helpful than the tech support people.
                            Maybe Flare won't be better and maybe it will. I have a conference call set up with them and I am also setting up a conference call with ADOBE for information to upgrade to 7.0. If we go with the upgrade to 7.0 I can tell you now I will be giving the technical support job (calling ADOBE) to one of my other co-workers.
                            Customer service is very important to me. I remember the days when you called ehlepTechnical Support and weren't transferred or put on hold, and the standard answer wasn't "uninstall/reinstall." They knew the product they were helping you with.
                            Sorry to vent, but we are getting killed today with e-mails because our servers are crashing more than yesterday and our customer service people are frustrated because they can't do their jobs fully without the system so we feed them the information they need since we can get into the projects manually.
                            • 11. Re: Comparison of RH7 to the "F" word - Flare 4
                              gdavism2m Level 1
                              Frances,
                              I have had the same run-ins with Adobe Technical Support. I had a problem in RH6 so I called in and explained it, after being put on hold I was then essentially told "We don't know what's wrong. Backup your project, uninstall then reinstall to fix it." I don't have access to my install CD which they didn't pay attention to that fact and just recited what seemed to be a stock answer then gave me 5 days to try it out and get back to them. They didn't realize that I had other things to do so they closed my case because I didn't get back to them within that timefram. I found the answer here quicker than calling support and it was a lot quicker and easy then what support suggested. That's another reason I am looking at Flare, their support is here in the US.
                              • 12. Re: Comparison of RH7 to the "F" word - Flare 4
                                Peter Grainge Adobe Community Professional
                                Francis

                                Thank you for posting a full and unemotional reply, it must have been a struggle. I will be taking this up with some Adobe contacts so that the message gets, hopefully, to where it needs to.

                                Do you really need RoboEngine? Please contact me via my site.

                                Greg

                                Thanks for your input. I would strongly recommend editing you email address out of posts. It's one way the spammers get their fodder. Unless of course you have body parts you want enlarged. :-)

                                • 14. Re: Comparison of RH7 to the "F" word - Flare 4
                                  three_penguins Level 1
                                  RH7 and Flare are both excellent products. I evaluated both in detail several months ago. RH works well with Dreamweaver since it is HTML based. Flare is based on a proprietary XML format that can't be as easily edited manually. Flare does have the ability to tie in directly to a VB.net based application so your help can be truly integrated into the app. RH gives you the option of AIR based help, but that is more like a fancy .CHM - not truly integrated into the app.

                                  IMHO you can't really go wrong with either product, they are both top notch. If you are currently using RH6 you'd have to ask yourself why you would want to switch - the .net tie in would be one possible reason. Good luch with your decision.
                                  • 15. Re: Comparison of RH7 to the "F" word - Flare 4
                                    Linux Rules Level 2
                                    quote:

                                    Originally posted by: Frances P
                                    I have no confidence in RH because I pay $1600 a year for technical support and can't get support. There is such a disconnect between ADOBE and their customers who do have RH.


                                    Hello Frances -

                                    I'll echo your experience only ours started when RH was owned by Macromedia. I dropped our gold support several years ago.

                                    Regards,
                                    GEWB