19 Replies Latest reply on Nov 10, 2009 6:15 AM by MergeThis

    New to Robo: are crashes and slow performance the norm?

    ReactionAtWork Level 1

      I'm using RoboHelp for the first time today. Started it up. New blank project, no problem. Now, I'm going to need to import a lot of HTML files into RoboHelp, that were generated by an old HAT (ForeHelp)....

       

      Issue 1:

      I go to the File, Import menu and select one of my .htm files. I have put the .htm file into its own folder together with any associated files that the HTML refers to.  CRASH!  No warnings, no messages, just a "This program needs to close" error. YOU WHAT?  If RoboHelp couldn't understand the HTML I gave it, then why didn't RoboHelp's Import code issue a "There was a problem with reading the file" error at the every least?  So, outside RoboHelp I take out anything in the HTML file that isn't plain vanilla HTML...

       

      Issue 2:

      ...and start RoboHelp again.  This time the HTML file imports, but takes ages to load a medium sized graphic within the topic...  but when it has, editing any surrounding text becomes absolutely impossible, since the whole application has slowed to a crawl!  There's screen corruption everywhere, with text laid on top of other text - a complete disaster....

       

      Issue 3:

      So I remove all references to the graphic from the HTML file and import it again. The same problem exists - impossible to edit text without screen corruption all over the place and massive slowdown.  Then I realise the topic references a background image (a tiny 585 byte .GIF image). So again, I close RoboHelp, edit the HTML file to remove references the BODY BACKGROUND image, and re-import it afresh into RoboHelp. At last, I can edit the text in real-time!  Then as an experiment, I use RoboHelp to assign the topic a backgorund image, exactly as specified in the Robohelp files. I use the same tiny 585 byte .GIF again, and it appears in the topic as expected.... but that massive slowdown and screen corruption is there again!   What the hell is the point of allowing me to assign a background image to a topic, if the editor is so hopelessly designed it can't handle it? 

       

      In summary, I am astounded out how utterly flaky and incompetent RoboHelp seems to be.  I have never used software that is so miserably slow and unreliable from the very outset.  So what is this old ForeHelp application that I'm using, you might ask?  Well, in 2001 when I was last selecting a HAT, it was winning all the awards for being the best HAT. Naturally, back then I tested the demo of RoboHelp too... but because it crashed constantly from the moment it started up (importing RTF files back then), I gave up with it, slack jawed at just how bad it was compared with ForeHelp. I've been happily using ForeHelp ever since, and it absolutely flies, even when editing my 750,000 word 1600 topic help file!  Unfortunately, ForeHelp was sold up, with parts of its technology being bought by... ComponentOne, makers of Doc2Help!

       

      I had thought that perhaps RoboHelp would have been tidied up after all these years of ownership by Adobe, but apparently not. It is truly disgraceful that a product that costs this much can crash and burn with no proper error handling, simply when attempting to import a file. It is unnacceptable that a product that costs this much can have such a hopelessly incompetent editing window, when my ancient ForeHelp blasts along with no issues whatsoever.  RoboHelp doesn't even have the unified Adobe interface style either!  If only I had known, I wouldn't have wasted my company's money on Technical Communication Suite 2, and would have just bought the (almost as creaky) FrameMaker 9 on its own.

        • 1. Re: New to Robo: are crashes and slow performance the norm?
          Peter Grainge Adobe Community Professional

          Did you not try the free trial version first? It runs for 30 days with absolutely no other restrictions, no watermarks, nothing.

           

          If the product was as bad as you say, no one could work with it so clearly it is something about what you are feeding into or something about your environment.

           

          Both are possibilities so let's rule out the easy part first. Have you applied the patch release earlier this week? Part of that was about improving performance.

           

          Then, have you tried opening the supplied sample projects. Are they working OK?

           

          At that point, perhaps we can turn to what you are feeding into it. Have you tried importing the old HTML files into any other editor, maybe the free Kompozer. I am curious as to how well they handle the old files? There is a PortableApps version that you can install on a flash drive if you are averse to installing it onto your PC.

           

          Then explain how ForeHelp worked for me. RH has source files and output files, as does Flare. They are different. If you import a RH output file into a project as a source file, it does need some cleaning up. Are the source and output files different in ForeHelp? I am not familiar with the product.

           

          Would you be willing to share one of the HTM files you are trying to import plus any supporting files such as images, CSS and so on?

           

          Please, let's find out where the problem is before slagging off RH. It is working for thousands of users worldwide so there has to be an explanation for this problem. Let's see if we can find it and then cast blame.

           


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          • 2. Re: New to Robo: are crashes and slow performance the norm?
            ReactionAtWork Level 1

            Peter,

             

            Thanks for taking the time to answer. I have attached a zip file containing the file that causes the problem, although I have replaced the titles and body text (for commercial reasons). I can confirm that the errors still occur exactly the same way.

             

            Test1_topic_Original.htm   This is the original file output from ForeHelp. This causes the unhandled application crash.

             

            Test2_topic_ForeHelpStuffRemoved.htm  In this file, I have removed any of ForeHelp's own comment tags. This topic loads into RoboHelp, but is then utterly uneditable due to a massive slowdown, screen noise, text overlaying text etc. I believe this might be a problem with the background graphic.

             

            Both files reference a style sheet in the same folder, and three graphics in a \graphics subfolder.  Incidentally, both files load perfectly into IE7 with no issues. I am using a Dell OptiPlex 960, with Intel Core2Quad 3GHz and 4GB RAM. I installed RoboHelp on Friday 6 November and immediately afterwards chose the Updates option (requiring a 300 MB+ download!). It now shows as version 8.0.1.204.

             

            I am very interested to know how you get on, as I have about 2000 topics like this that I need to import!  It will be fine as long as the error can be determined so that I can, if necessary, pre-process all the .htm files (in an automated way) before feeding them to RoboHelp.

            • 3. Re: New to Robo: are crashes and slow performance the norm?
              Peter Grainge Adobe Community Professional

              I'll try to look this evening. Assume the zip file has the CSS and images so that when I import, RH pulls in the same as it would from wherever you source it.

               


              See www.grainge.org for RoboHelp and Authoring tips

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              • 4. Re: New to Robo: are crashes and slow performance the norm?
                ReactionAtWork Level 1

                Yes, the zip contains the two .htm files and the .css file (which on inspection RoboHelp appears to have edited and tided-up for itself!), and three graphics which need to go in a \graphics subfolder.

                • 5. Re: New to Robo: are crashes and slow performance the norm?
                  ntompkins Level 1

                  Just to add my twopenneth.

                   

                  I found RH also quite slow and flakey until I moved my projects to the C drive, this solved 90% of problems, I just have to remember to back up to the network regularly which is a bit of a pain but has saved my skin a few times.

                   

                  Anyway now I use it daily and it's as reliable as any other piece of software. It does crash occassionally but then again so do Word, Excel, etc.

                   

                  With regard to CSS I tend to use an external editor as the RH editor doesnt seem able to handle more advanced graphic effects.

                   

                  Regards.

                  • 6. Re: New to Robo: are crashes and slow performance the norm?
                    RoboColum(n) Level 5

                    As nhompkins has found out, running RH on anything other than a local drive causes problems but crashes and slow performance will be the least of them ;-)

                    Signoff Mk.II

                     


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                    • 7. Re: New to Robo: are crashes and slow performance the norm?
                      ReactionAtWork Level 1

                      I'm running everything on the C: drive, and all the other Adobe stuff works fine, inlcuding Photoshop with the GPU effects turned on, so I can't see how it's a graphics problem either. I really do hope I can resolve this importing problem as I definitely need to move away from my current HAT. But on the only two occasions I've tried RoboHelp (8 years apart, pre- and post-Adobe ownership), isn't been instant crashes both times!

                      • 8. Re: New to Robo: are crashes and slow performance the norm?
                        ntompkins Level 1

                        Just had a quick go at importing your files and I dont know what is in them but it is causing RH to crash immediately.

                        I viewed the source and copied it straight into the HTML area which seemed to work, there seems to be some sort of activex control in there which may be causing the problem though.  Anyway only a quick look and I'm no techy.

                        • 9. Re: New to Robo: are crashes and slow performance the norm?
                          Peter Grainge Adobe Community Professional

                          I just took a quick look at what is in the zip file.

                           

                          That looks to be a source file from ForeHelp. Do you have the same file from the webhelp that ForeHelp generated? It might be useful when I am poking things around later.

                           


                          See www.grainge.org for RoboHelp and Authoring tips

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                          • 10. Re: New to Robo: are crashes and slow performance the norm?
                            ReactionAtWork Level 1

                            No, it's definitely not a source file from ForeHelp, but one of the output files. The ForeHelp source file/project is a heavily compacted .dbz database. When building the help file, it writes every topic into a folder as a.htm file, then invokes the Microsoft HTML help compiler to pack them into a .chm.

                             

                            (UPDATE: If I open the finished .chm help file, and do a View Source on the topic, all the <!Forehelp...>  comments are in there exactly as shown in the file I attached - apart from the whole <OBJECT... block. If this alone is removed, then RoboHelp will open the file.

                             

                            So that looks like problem 1 is solved - meaning I can write a script to strip out OBJECT blocks from each .htm file before importing.

                            Still problem 2 to go, the crazy slow down when a background image is present.

                             

                            NB: Adobe Dreamweaver can open and edit the original .htm file without crashing or slowing down.  /UPDATE)

                            • 11. Re: New to Robo: are crashes and slow performance the norm?
                              Nick@Tag Level 2

                              Just to confirm....the first htm file caused a crash on importing.

                               

                              the second imported fine, but as you say the background image you have set causes a HUGE slow down.

                               

                              I replaced the background image with a different one, and performance picked up to normal quickly.

                               

                              I'd suggest change the image, or re-create it and do it again. It seems the iamge is causing the problems.

                               

                              when I look at the gif in photoshop, its a vertical black line, but in robohelp its a fading purple background....perhaps that has something to do with it. Best bet would be to change that and I'd you're on to a winner.....

                              • 12. Re: New to Robo: are crashes and slow performance the norm?
                                Peter Grainge Adobe Community Professional

                                To cut a long post to the essentials, what you found and what I can confirm, is that if the topic has the background image, then working in the design editor is impossible but remove it and everything is OK. Right so far?

                                 

                                For some reason that image is embedded in the topic rather than being part of the CSS. I rather hoped that removing the embedded styling and putting it in the CSS would resolve the problem but no joy.

                                 

                                I plan trying a few other things and making some other enquiries but if that does not produce a workable solution, how would this work for you. An output from these files shows the image and works fine, the problem is the Design Editor.

                                 

                                Create a copy of the CSS and call it HouseStyle_wip.css. Apply the background to the original only.

                                 

                                Select all topics in the Topic List, right click and apply HouseStyle_wip.css while you work. Revert to the original in the same way when you need to create an output.

                                 

                                I know it is not ideal and hopefully a better solution will be found. Meantime though, would that be an acceptable workaround?

                                 


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                                • 13. Re: New to Robo: are crashes and slow performance the norm?
                                  Peter Grainge Adobe Community Professional

                                  After my post, I just saw Nick's. Please try a different image to confirm that works for you. If it does, then maybe playing around with the image somehow will fix the problem.

                                   

                                  Give that a try and then post back.

                                   

                                  I've not seen this issue reported before so hopefully it is something specific to this graphic.

                                   


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                                  • 14. Re: New to Robo: are crashes and slow performance the norm?
                                    ReactionAtWork Level 1

                                    I have found the cause of problem 2, the slow editing. The .GIF background image has dimensions of 1 pixel wide x 30,000 pixels tall, the first 64 pixels of which are the blue fade, with all those below being white. This might sound absolutely crazy, but was necessary in my old HAT (ForeHelp) since the topic background option had no Tile / Do not tile option - the graphic always tiled by default. The long length ensured that however long the topic became, the image would never have a chance to tile vertically (and so repeat the blue fade right across the middle of the topic). The only other option was to put a table at the top of every topic to hold a sensibly sized graphic. However, my help file started out by importing a 400 page Word .RTF document, and although ForeHelp successfully created new topics by detecting each Heading1 in the RTF file, it could not be made to automatically insert a table at the topic of every topic. Hence every topic was later assigned this massively long graphic as the background. Needless to say, reducing it to a reasonable length brought RoboHelp's editor back to life. It's still odd that Dreamweaver's editor has no problems at all....

                                     

                                    In RoboHelp I'm sure it will be much easier to setup the topics as I wish (and 8 years on from ForeHelp, using a much better method!).  However, while the slow editing problem might be excusable due the abnormal GIF, it's still disappointing that a program as expensive as RoboHelp should crash with an unhandled error when importing a plain text file (the other problem). I would have expected to see "RoboHelp cannot interpret parts of this file." shown in the normal import report window.

                                     

                                    Many thanks for all your help. I look forward to experimenting further with RoboHelp.

                                    • 15. Re: New to Robo: are crashes and slow performance the norm?
                                      Peter Grainge Adobe Community Professional

                                      I didn't experience any crash importing your topics.

                                       

                                      What you should do now is report this as a bug. Just explain that RH's Design Editor is unable to handle images of the type used.

                                       

                                      Please follow this link.

                                       

                                      http://www.Adobe.com/cfusion/mmform/index.cfm?name=wishform&product=38

                                       

                                       


                                      See www.grainge.org for RoboHelp and Authoring tips

                                      Follow me @petergrainge

                                      • 16. Re: New to Robo: are crashes and slow performance the norm?
                                        ReactionAtWork Level 1

                                        Thanks for the link. I have reported both issues.

                                        • 17. Re: New to Robo: are crashes and slow performance the norm?
                                          MergeThis Level 4

                                          ReactionAtWork:

                                           

                                          I, too, was "astounded" and "slack-jawed" upon reading your claim that in 2001, Forehelp "was winning all the awards for being the best HAT." Excuse me, but Forehelp was on its way out long before that date, as evidenced by the totally insane manner in which you had to force-fit this background image (30,000 pixels tall, are you serious?).

                                           

                                          And you're offended by RH not providing you with a flowery, personalized message about exactly why it's barfing over trying to digest this corrupted piece of filth from a long-dead product?

                                           

                                          Perhaps now that your initial rants have been proven unwarranted by the facts as they have slowly been revealed, you will, over time and with more RH experience, become a patient and helpful member of this forum (like those folks who have graciously helped you throughout this posting). I, unfortunately, am not so gracious.

                                           


                                          Good luck,
                                          Leon

                                          • 18. Re: New to Robo: are crashes and slow performance the norm?
                                            ReactionAtWork Level 1

                                            How unfortunate that you choose to be so childishly rude, when all others here have patiently tried to help me. In response to your needlessly abusive trolling, I will reiterate the facts, for what it's worth:

                                             

                                            *  RoboHelp was dreadful when I tried it in 2001 (pre-Adobe I believe), crashing at the first hurdle (importing RTF files), and relying on a messy integration with MS Word (easy to forget nowadays!).

                                             

                                            *  ForeHelp did exactly what was required, already had an integrated editor (we take that for granted now) and built me my first help file seemingly by itself, and with little use of its own documentation. Having also read several glowing reviews of this 'upstart' (hence why I tried the demo), and being on a tight schedule to produce a help file, it was a 'no-brainer'. It has served faultessly since then, but a new tool is needed now to develop the help into other areas.

                                             

                                            *  On starting up the very latest RoboHelp 8 and attempting to import a file, it crashed immediately. Imagine my memories of 2001!  Hence the uncharacteristic late Friday afternoon rant!  No product of this value from the Adobe stable should crash when filtering a simple text file. HTML files are often full of proprietary crap (which confused neither Internet Explorer or Adobe's own Dreamweaver product) so Adobe clearly need to improve RoboHelp's error handling (hence my bug report).

                                             

                                            /ENDS

                                            • 19. Re: New to Robo: are crashes and slow performance the norm?
                                              MergeThis Level 4

                                              No, ReactionAtWork, childishly rude is this:

                                               

                                              • Jump in to a user-only forum and proceed to trash the product all other users are working with every day.
                                              • At each revelation that your project/environment is at fault, offer a begrudging thanks but always follow that with further complaints.
                                              • Insist that a HAT should interpret corrupted files as seamlessly as a browser does (not likely).
                                              • Insist that your Forehelp files are nothing but text files (as I remember, Forehelp files were just as loaded down with meta tags and macros as MS Word files--which can be a lot).
                                              • Insist that a 1-pixel x 30,000-pixel image would not gag any HAT except for the product it was specifically created for (Forehelp).

                                               

                                              Perhaps you could also look at how many postings these helpful folks have contributed so far (and that's not counting all of their postings on the previous, deprecated forum versions sponsored by Macromedia and Blue Sky, the previous RH owners). Then you might look at the helpful information that some of them provide on their own web sites, free of charge and all on their own time.

                                               

                                              Then, perhaps, you could thank them for their help without any additional complaints. Accept the fact that this image is an aberration, and that RH has no responsibility to hold your hand. I repeat: given time to work with the product and spend more time on the user forum, I suspect that you, too, can become a useful citizen of the RH user forum.

                                               

                                              And, by the way, your initial post was the purest example of trolling (Trolling is the act of purposefully antagonizing other people on the internet, generally on message boards.). All I was doing in my post was inviting you to look in a mirror.

                                               

                                               

                                              Good luck,

                                              Leon