Adobe RoboHelp Gets Long-Awaited Update

Adobe Systems has dusted off the long-neglected RoboHelp, formerly known as eHelp and published by Macromedia, and given it the first significant upgrade in three years.

RoboHelp 6 combines functionality that had been scattered throughout add-ons and different versions of the software and integrates with other Adobe  authoring software, such as Acrobat, Framemaker and Captivate.

RoboHelp is an authoring tool for building Help files used in applications, Web pages and operating systems. It provides context-sensitive searching of the help file, building a table of contents, indexing, a glossary, graphics, special effects.

The long lag between updates clearly was of concern to many of its users. John Daigle, president of Evergreen Online Learning, an online help systems and instructional design firm, was one of them.

“There was an assumption that it was going to die,” he told “When Adobe bought Macromedia, they apparently looked at the entire communications platform and decided to resurrect it. We were just ecstatic over the fact that they decided to keep it going.”

RoboHelp 6 is now split into just two programs, RoboHelp 6 for client-side authoring, and RoboHelp 6 Server, which delivers online content to clients. This version adds support for Adobe’s PDF format and integration of Adobe Captivate 2.

Captivate 2 allows for capturing screen activity and saving it in Flash  format. These Flash files can be added to a Help file to provide an animated demonstration. RoboHelp 6 can also import Microsoft Word documents, FrameMaker files and XML files to assemble a variety of content into a help file.

The Server product will allow Help authors to store their documents on the server and send them down to the client, which gives them a single point of update. When changes are made, it only has to be published once, not to all of the clients.

In addition, RoboHelp 6 Server has reporting tools, to tell developers what questions are being asked the most, or what questions are not being answered because the answer does not exist.

“This provides authors with the ability to publish more effective content to the user and use feedback reports to deliver more relevant content to the user,” said Michael Hu, senior product marketing manager for Adobe.

Daigle has been testing the beta version of RoboHelp 6 and likes what he sees. “It’s leaps ahead of the old version,” he said. But the real excitement among RoboHelp users isn’t this release but the next one, he said. “It’s clear there’s going to be continued and accelerated development. It’s clear this is not a case of ‘here’s a few bug fixes and let’s move on.’ ”

RoboHelp 6 and RoboHelp 6 Server are available as of today for Windows 2000/XP, with a Windows Vista version due later this year. RoboHelp 6 is priced at $999 for new users or $499 for qualified upgrades, while Adobe RoboHelp 6 Server is $1,999 for new users, or $999 for upgrades.

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