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Comparing Multiple Outputs of RoboHelp 11 and FrameMaker 12

© Ugur Akinci

I’ve made a test. I generated different output versions of the same simple file both by using Adobe FrameMaker 12 and then Adobe RoboHelp 11.

Since these two great products are sold as part of Adobe’s Technical Communication Suite, I wanted to see what would one lose without RoboHelp and by using only FrameMaker as a publishing platform.

My Conclusion

For traditional publishing needs, you could probably do without RoboHelp 11 and rely solely on FrameMaker 12.

I have published the results of the FrameMaker 12 test in two article: Article 1 and Article 2.

Here I will present the results of RoboHelp11 publishing.

I have imported the same FM file into RoboHelp 11 and then tried to generate as many output versions as I could from the wealth of options offered by RH:

RoboHelp 11 Single Source Layouts

The original FM file looked great after I imported it into RoboHelp just fine:

(Click to enlarge the images)

RH11-FM12_Comparison_1

I first to batch-generate every RH output available by selecting all of them in the Batch Generator screen and then clicking the Generate button:

RH11-FM12_Comparison_2_Batch_Generate

RH failed to generate anything. (Later, I discovered RH was giving one “Macros are disabled” error message after another. After enabling macros in MS Word, I could at least generate “Printed Documentation”.)

So I had to try publishing one format at a time.

Here are the results:

MS HTML Output

RH11-FM12_Comparison_3_Output_RH_MS_HTML

Verdict: Excellent!

Web Help

RH11-FM12_Comparison_4_Output_RH_Web_Help

Verdict: Excellent!

Printed Documentation (PDF)

RH11-FM12_Comparison_5_Output_PRINTED DOCUMENTATION

Verdict: Excellent!

Responsive HTML Output 1 – For Desktop

RH11-FM12_Comparison_6_Output_RESPONSIVE_1

Verdict: Excellent!

Responsive HTML Output 2 – For iPad

RH11-FM12_Comparison_7_Output_RESPONSIVE_2

Verdict: Excellent!

Responsive HTML Output 3 – For Android and iPhone

RH11-FM12_Comparison_8_Output_RESPONSIVE_3

Verdict: Excellent!

Ebook

RH11-FM12_Comparison_9_Output_EBOOK

Verdict: Excellent!

Flash and Flash PRO Help

RH11-FM12_Comparison_10_Output_FLASH_HELP

Verdict: Excellent!

XML Putput

RH11-FM12_Comparison_12_Output_XML_OUTPUT

Verdict: Excellent!

Multi Screen Output

RH11-FM12_Comparison_13_Output_MULTISCREEN

Verdict: It’s not bad but needs a little editing of the style sheet.

Overall Comparison

FrameMaker 12 RoboHelp 11 Verdict
Printed Doc / PDF Yes Yes Both excellent
Responsive HTML 5 Yes Yes Both excellent
Multiscreen HTML 5 No Yes Needs cleanup
Web Help Yes Yes Both excellent
Web Help Pro No Yes Excellent
MS HTML Yes Yes Both excellent
eBook No Yes Excellent
ePub Yes No ?
Kindle Yes No ?
Adobe Air No Yes ?
Flash Help No No Yes Excellent
Flash Help Pro No Yes Excellent
XML Output Yes Yes Excellent

Last Thoughts

For my purposes, I think FrameMaker 12 alone would be just fine. Generating my help file straight from FM, without the intermediary step of importing the files into RoboHelp, should be cleaner and quicker. Yes, RH does provide some options that FM does not. But some of them, like Flash help, are increasingly deprecated as HTML 5 takes over as the dominant web markup regime. If you, for example, need to generate Adobe Air help, then you’d better keep your RoboHelp nearby. But for most traditional publishing projects I think FrameMaker will hold its own against RH.

Load Test?

I have tested FM’s HTML engine with a 5-chapter book file. It did just fine. But I have not yet tested what would happen if I have let’s say 100 or 500 files in the book project. That will be the subject of another blog post in the future.

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How to Insert a Proper Page Break for Changing Page Orientation in MS Word

© Ugur Akinci

In MS Word, not all page breaks are the same. The two different types of page breaks have different repercussions when it comes to changing your page layout in mid-stream.

You have to be careful what kind of a page break you are inserting if you would like to change your page layout orientation from Portrait to Landscape or vice-versa.

Imagine you have a document like the one below:

(Click the images to enlarge them)

MS Word Page Break 1

We would like to insert a page break just before the table and then change the table page into a Landscape layout since the table si too wide for a Portrait page. Here are the two methods to accomplish that.

METHOD 1: Using Insert (tab) > Page Break command:

Place your cursor right before the table title and click Insert > Page break. This will insert a page break right before the table and push the table to the next page:

MS Word Page Break 2

If you toggle the Show/Hide button (Home tab) you’ll see that this kind of page break is represented by a SINGLE DOTTED line.

Now let’s select Page Layout > Orientation >  Landscape to switch the table page into a LANDSCAPE orientation and see what happens:

MS Word Page Break 3

As you can see ALL PAGES switch to the LANDSCAPE orientation and that’s not what we want.

We want the previous page remain in PORTRAIT orientation and only the table page switch to LANDSCAPE orientation.

Let’s try the second method.

METHOD 2: Page Layout (tab) > Breaks > Next Page command:

MS Word Page Break 4

Select the Page Layout (tab) > Breaks > Next Page command to insert a page break before the table. Notice how the page break this time is represented by DOUBLE DOTTED LINES:

MS Word Page Break 5

 

Now when we switch the table page into a layout orientation by selecting  Page Layout > Orientation >  Landscape, only the table page switches  into a LANDSCAPE orientation and the previous page remains in PORTRAIT orientation — which is exactly what we wanted!

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Writing with Short Words to Save Space on Mobile Platforms

© Ugur Akinci

When writing for small-screen mobile platforms like smart phones and pads the real estate is at a premium. The screens are so small, the technical writers must express procedures by using as short words and phrases as possible.

Here is the screen provided by Joe Welinske during an STC Washington D.C. Baltimore chapter presentation that inspired me to do a little research of my own on this emergent issue:

Joe Welinske Short words

Here are my own additions to this list:

Replace

With

To save (digits)

Accomplish Do 8
Accurate Right 3
Acquire Get 4
Additional Extra 5
Advise Tell 2
Application Use 8
Approximate About 6
Assistance Help 6
Attempt Try 4
At the present time Now 16
Authorize Allow 4
Because of the fact that Since 19
Capability Ability 3
Combined Joint 3
Comply with Follow 5
Component Part 5
Currently Now 6
Convene Meet 3
Demonstrate Show 7
Discontinue Drop / Stop 7
During the period During 11
Economical Cheap 5
Employ Use 3
Endeavor Try 5
Equitable Fair 5
Facilitate Help 6
Finalize Finish 2
Frequently Often 5
Identical Same 5
In an effort to To 13
Indicate Say / Show 5 / 4
In favor of For 8
Initiate Start 3
In order to To 9
In the event of If 13
Is authorized to May 13
Magnitude Size 5
Modify Edit 2
Methodology Method 5
Multiple Many 4
Necessitate Cause 6
Not many Few 5
Numerous Many 4
Objective Aim / Goal 6 / 5
Obtain Get 3
Operate Run / Use 4
Optimum Best 3
Particulars Details 4
Regarding About 4
Represents Is 8
Request Ask 4
Similar to Like 6
Terminate End 6
Transmit Send 4
Utilize Use 4
Variation Change 3
With reference to About 12
Whether or not Whether 7

 Check this Wikipedia article for more options and suggestions.

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