Archive for the ‘RoboHelp’ Category

Changing Course…

December 16, 2010

Hello all

So today I attended an eSeminar that was facilitated by RJ Jacquez at Adobe Systems. The eSeminar was focused on ePubs output. Being someone involved with eBooks, I was naturally interested, so I attended.

This is a cool new output ability for some of the Adobe products using my beloved RoboHelp as a conduit for publishing to this new format. And kudos to the team for adding the scripting ability within RoboHelp 8. I seriously wish I understood it.

So let’s talk about possibly the single most confusing point I have when it comes to ePub.

It seems that when discussing the the main advantages of the ePub format, the ability to “reflow” text is often touted.

Speaking as an old hand at working with on-line content, admittedly I am viewing this with a somewhat critical eye and going “huh?”. Seriously, I’m having a major brain fart with understanding why it’s such a big deal.

I’m wondering if many of you out there are also scratching your heads over the same issue.

For anyone that may be reading this and still wondering what I’m rambling on about, here is some background. I began my journeys with on-line content back in 1992. At the time, we edited our documents in Microsoft Word and used this way cool “Word add-in” called “RoboHelp” that had all these Word Macros that caused specific codes to be inserted that the WinHelp compiler would recognize and properly convert to a WinHelp file.

So here is where it gets interesting from the perspective of the ePub and reflowing text hyperbole. And the source of my utter confusion!

The image below shows a WinHelp document displayed in the WinHelp viewer.

WinHelp Example 1

And now, I’ll resize the viewer and observe the text.

WinHelp resized

Notice how the text simply adapted to the size of the window? Ummm, isn’t that “reflowing”? And this was back in 1992!

The same seems to hold true for Compiled HTML Help files (CHM) format, anything Web Based and even Adobe’s new AIR Help format.

So as you can see, it causes those of us with experience in these formats to seriously question why all the hubub about being able to reflow text?

It baffles me nearly as much as Apple’s proclamation that the iPhone can now perform copy/paste! w00t! I mean, really, come on now, you invented something we accept as common on any PC in existence? Why all the crowing about something you forgot to include to begin with!

Until the next whenever… Rick 🙂






Windows 7 and Flash Player

May 9, 2010


Well I’ve been humming along with my new PC and so far so good. There have been adjustments to the way one has to work and so far I’ve been seemingly adjusting well. There are some things I find that are really cool, such as the ability to simply tile two applications side by side by just “tossing” the windows to the side. To “toss” a window, just grab the title bar by clicking the mouse and dragging it. Then using a quick motion, you act as if you are tossing the window to the left or right side of the desktop. It’s way cool. The application just snaps into place occupying half the screen.

Another cool feature I stumbled across is the ability to grab a title bar and “shake” the application. What happens is that all other applications minimize. But these cool things aren’t the purpose of this post.

The real purpose of this post is to report a disturbing discovery. Many folks are aware that I’m a CHM fan. I find the format to be very efficient and handy. As a result, I create lots of CHM files to accomplish this or that. When I facilitate training, I use a CHM file as a guide to keep me on track. So today I opened a CHM file to view it. There was nothing really special or out of the ordinary with my CHM file. I’ve opened lots of them since migrating to Windows 7. But there was something I had not noticed. That is, I had not noticed it until today.

What I noticed was that a CHM that worked just fine on Windows XP Professional (my previous operating system) no longer worked just fine on my shiny new Windows 7 PC. I had displayed a page that presented a Captivate movie. Where the Captivate movie was supposed to appear I saw a large placeholder instead. Upon attempting to view the Captivate movie I tried many different things.

My first attempt was to try and install the Flash Player. I reasoned that the Flash Player must not be installed. I primarily use Firefox as my browser. I knew that I had configured Firefox to present Flash. But unless a web page just doesn’t want to play nice with Firefox, I seldom open IE. My reasoning said that IE must not have the Flash Player added in. I know that the CHM viewer relies on IE for bits of its display, so it seemed to make perfect sense to me that if IE didn’t have Flash Player capabilities I would not see my Captivate movie inside my CHM page. So I opened IE and be-bopped over to the Flash Player install page. Installed just fine so I should be good!

I display the CHM again and was a bit perplexed as things didn’t seem to change. So I’m thinking that perhaps another area needed to be touched. Perhaps I need to somehow run the HH.EXE in Admin mode so that changes could be made somewhere else. I struggled big time in making HH.EXE run in Admin mode. The bottom line was that I ended up disabling User Account Control and restarting the PC.

Ran the CHM again and tried to update. RATS! Nothing worked. Then I recalled that CHM files have an ability to open URLs by clicking in the upper left corner. I tried that and visited the Adobe Flash Player site. My brain was abuzz and I was all tingly thinking I had FINALLY sorted how to do it! But nope. Upon attempting to install the Flash Player, I was greeted with a link to an Adobe Knowedge Base article. I’ll link below for your reading pleasure.

Click here to read the article

The bottom line is that the Flash Player or Add In isn’t available for 64 bit systems yet. So I must have been using the 64 bit version of the HH.EXE file and whatever bits of IE that are needed must also be 64 bit. Frustrating to be sure, but at least now I have an explanation for the odd behavior.

Until next time… Rick 🙂

The school of hard knocks…

April 9, 2010

Hello world! 😉

Okay, this one is more of a general musing and a bit of rambling.

Recently my Windows XP machine was rendered nearly unusable. Seems that despite having Anti-virus software installed, I managed to pick up a Trojan Horse. Here I thought I was being a good do bee and I had Avast anti-virus installed. I’m protected, right?

As it turns out, Avast performed its normal cycle of updating the virus definitions. Moments after it updated, WHAP!!! Seems it discovered a Trojan Horse in some obscure file. I’m not even sure if the file was an actual Windows file or not, but it sure seemed that most of my applications liked using it. So Avast quarantines the file.

Then things got worse. Nearly any application I opened was apparently looking for the file. Bummer… BIG TIME BUMMER!

About the only way I can imagine that the trojan got there was that I had been installing lots of different trialware and freeware in efforts to determine the simplest way to configure my setup for movie production. Ahh well. Lesson learned!

So I knew I was facing a potential reload of the OS to get things right. I’m looking at the aging computer and thinking that perhaps an upgrade was in order. So I bit the ole bullet and upgraded to a 4 Gig Windows 7 64 bit machine. Sweet! Except there are certain things that don’t seem to like 64 bit Windows 7 all that well. I knew that it offered an ability to tell applications to run in XP compatibility mode. Hmmm, mine seemed to be missing that capability. Further research seemed to indicate that my PC had Windows 7 Home Premium installed. And Home Premium doesn’t offer that little nugget. What to do?

Well, I upgraded the Home Premium to Ultimate. Now I can run the apps with no issue, right? Not so fast. Some apps STILL refused to work properly despite my attempts. Then I poked around Google more and discovered the Windows Virtual Machine with Windows XP Mode. Seemed to install okay. Had one small hiccup where it was unable to connect to Microsoft to validate my copy was genuine, but I tried again and it was all good.

So now I have a Windows XP virtual Machine where I can run nearly all the apps I was running before. (Captivate 1, 2 and 3 – RoboHelp X5, 6, and 7 and other apps.) I’m mostly a happy camper. And I’m largely productive again. Still will be a while before I’m *FULLY* productive, but such is the life of an upgrade, no?

Anyhoo, if you have been wondering where I’ve been. There ya have it! Rick 🙂

RoboHelp Patch Issued

November 3, 2009

Hi all

I’m pleased to report that the Adobe RoboHelp developers today issued a long expected and desired patch for RoboHelp 8.

If you have been using RoboHelp 8, click Help > Updates and try to upgrade!

Fellow Adobe Community Expert Peter Grainge has details about the patch on his site at the link below.

Click here to view

Until next time… Rick 🙂

False Starting

September 21, 2009

Greetings and salutations!

Yes I’m keenly aware that the blog is in need of updating! Life has a way of getting in the way, no?

Okay, onto the meat of the post. This one will be RoboHelp HTML focused.

When RoboHelp authors create web based output such as WebHelp or FlashHelp, we sometimes find that folks grow extremely confused between the start page and the default topic. This post is intended to provide some insight into this common mystery.

Broken down it’s pretty simple. The Webhelp Start Page is the HTML page that launches your WebHelp system. The Default Topic is quite simply the first topic that is presented to your end user after things load up and settle. Pretty straightforward, huh?

Unfortunately, all too often we find that folks will attempt to name these two HTML pages using the same file name. When that happens, RoboHelp sees a conflict and will rename your Default Topic. The name it changes to usually bears a trailing _1.htm. This happens because it’s quite common for the Default Topic to be stored in the same general location as the WebHelp Start Page. Because as the final configuration you are instructing RoboHelp HTML to name the WebHelp Start Page identically to the Default Topic, something has to give and RoboHelp does its best by renaming the Default Topic and amending all references to it internally. As a best practice, I normally advise folks to consider naming this page index.htm.

This type of naming has benefits. If you have many different help systems it may become cumbersome to determine what the start page is for each one. Things are simplified if all you do is look for index.htm. Additionally, if you are placing the help in a folder on your web server, the URL that opens the help may omit the start page name. This is because it’s a standard Web Server behavior to serve up the index.htm page if a page hasn’t been specified in the link. I like simple things.

On the flip side of things we also see where confusion reigns and folks are unsure which page to link to after they upload the files to the server. And often we find that in this confusion they point a link to the Default Topic. And when this occurs, they are nearly always surprised when they fail to see the nice frameset surrounding their topic. All they see is the miserable Show link in the upper left corner of the page.

Until next time. Remember the Golden Rule. They that have the gold, rule!


April 17, 2009

Recently I was in Seattle, WA where I assisted Adobe by staffing the vendor booth. These events are always a good time. I get to meet many of you and showcase the amazing new products that Adobe is offering.

One really super cool aspect of this situation is that I get to spend time with some of the fine Adobe folks. This year was no exception. RJ Jacquez was present and demonstrated some wonderful new collaboraton features with the Technical Communication Suite. I also had the pleasure of meeting Dhiren Jani, the new Product Manager for RoboHelp.

I have no recollection of exactly HOW the subject came up, but at one point we began discussing the RoboHelp Start Page. At least that’s what I call it.


I believe everyone I know refers to this as either the RoboHelp Start page or the “RoboHelp Starter”. And that makes total sense. Primarily because in the RoboHelp HTML application, the tab is labeled “Starter”.

Apparently inside Adobe they don’t refer to this page by the same name. The developers refer to it as the “DWS”.

Several things came flooding into my twisted little brain when I heard the term DWS.

Here are just a few:

  • Dancing With Stars
  • Dating While Single
  • Driven White Snow

Now maybe I’m just twisted, but the true meaning of what the Adobe folks call it never came to my mind!

The meaning? Dynamic Welcome Screen.

I believe that all Adobe products are adopting this approach. What remains a mystery is whether all other develpment areas refer to it the same way.

Am I alone in wondering why Adobe would be surprised that I called it what it is labeled?

Hoping your weekend is well…

Shiny and New

April 6, 2009

Ahhh Springtime…

Trees budding with fresh green leaves, grass growing and greening up, rain. Ohh the rain. And what’s this? Snow? (To me, Snow is a four letter “S” word)

Yes, it was snowing here in the wonderful Midwest yesterday. Ugh!

Today began something new with Adobe. Adobe has some shiny and new forums up and running. As with anything new and really untested in live use, we are likely to see some hickeys here and there. But isn’t that really the fun bit? Sorting them out and figuring the workarounds? Kind of like a cute new puppy. Parts will likely be unpredictable and other parts oddly familiar.


  • I really like the fact we are able to pop images and videos into posts. I think that will be tremendously helpful in so many cases.
  • I like the fact that it appears we will be able to reply via eMail. Could be useful. However, it doesn’t appear to be fully functional yet. I’ve seen some failures with undeliverable mail when I simply replied. I have seen from others that they are having issues too.


  • It seems quite silly to me that Adobe are allowing us to freely upload any 300 pixel image to use as our profile picture, yet the custom 48 pixel avatar apparently requires “approval” by the forum admins. I’m hoping this is a simple fix.
  • No sign yet that we may have a custom signature line.

I’m sure there will be more as we work through it all.

Happy Monday…

RoboHelp Stumper of the moment

March 22, 2009

Hello all

Here is a situation that has popped up more than once in the different support venues I participate in.

Please do feel free to offer comments with suggestions.

The Situation

Perhaps you have some text and an image that you wish to display in multiple topics.

As in the Example below:

feedback Note: The Hoozamafludge discussed in this topic is only offered by BigCo.

At this point you may be thinking the solution is quite simple.

Just define the table in a RoboHelp HTML Snippet. Insert the image and the text and insert the Snippet into the topics. Right?

One might think.

However, just as all bad infomercials advise: But wait, there’s more!

Cactus Fruit

Here is where things begin to get prickly. In the table, the term Hoozamafludge is likely to vary.

So how may we handle this situation easily?

feedback Note: The Hoozamafludge discussed in this topic is only offered by BigCo.

If you are like me, you might even think this is something simple to achieve.

Well duh! Just declare a Variable Mr. Smarty pants! Insert the Variable into the Snippet. Problem solved!

Not so fast there, mister!

The big ole wrinkle

Here is where things become extra prickly. The term that the Variable represents is topic specific. Perhaps you have 15 different topics and your goal is to update that common table with the variable.

Topic A refers to a Hoozamafludge. Topic B refers to a Floomdorm. Topic C calls it a Bingleflinger. And on it goes.

Tough call, huh? Beginning to sense the issue?

Possible options:

  • Multiple Snippets that are basically identical but each use a different variable.  That option doesn’t seem optimal, as it would  appear to defeat the purpose of the Snippet. If I decided to change the Snippet, I’d end up changing many different Snippets.
  • One could declare a JavaScript variable in each of the topics. Then insert a smidgeon of JavaScript in the Snippet that would use whatever text was present in the variable to perform a “Write in” of the text.

For extra credit…

See if you can think of a way to accomplish everything mentioned with the added feature of changing the Topic Title!

Now it’s your turn to offer suggestions via the comments. Go!