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© 2010 Ugur Akinci
My readers know my fondness for Adobe RoboHelp for creating help files. But for those who cannot afford RoboHelp there are some free alternatives out there like HelpNDoc; free at least for personal use. If you need to use these programs commercially you may need to pay a small licensing fee, which might be worth it. Just make sure you check out the difference between personal and commercial use when you download such software packages.
Here are some of the things I like about HelpNDoc:
(1) It is simple to use. “No brainer” as they say in the United States. Very open, clear, straight-forward GUI without any confusing tabs, pods, etc.
(2) It of course comes with a full-fledged text editor in which you can do all kinds of paragraph, font, and list manipulation that you expect from such an editor.
(3) You can type in your whole TOC before you start your help file project, create the TOC first, and then fill in each topic one by one. This is what the TOC-typing screen looks like:
(4) You can import the TOC of an existing help project if it’s in .CHM (chum) format. (A majority of help projects out there are in .CHM file format.)
(5) When you create a new topic you can easily drag-and-drop and indent it’s relative positive in the TOC by using your mouse.
(6) You can create user-defined variables to use in your help file. That will save you time and effort when, for example, you can search for a sentence (by using the FInd and Replace function) and replace every instance of that sentence with your variable and its most current value.
(7) And here is a major attraction of HelpNDoc: once you finish building your help project, you click the Compile button and the software generates four different versions of the project simultaneously:
- a DOC text file
- a PDF text file
- an HTML web-page file
- a CHM help file
Click here to see some screen-shots of the application: http://www.helpndoc.com/screenshots
You can download HelpNDoc from here: http://www.helpndoc.com/download