Project basics

Basic workflow

1. Create a project.

Every Help system has at least one project. The basic element of the project is the topic.

2. Author the content.

Create topics. You can add multimedia now, or later when you customize the output. Work with the application developer to start planning which topics to also use for context-sensitive Help. Context-sensitive topics appear when the user clicks a Help button in the user interface or presses F1.

3. Import files.

You can import HTML files, Microsoft Word files (.doc, .docx, .docm, .rtf), FrameMaker books and documents (.book, .bk, .fm, .frm, .mif), XML files (.xml), and Adobe PDF files (.pdf).

4. Develop the navigation.

Based on the hierarchy, or organization scheme, of the content, create links among topics and to external content if necessary. You can also link text or images to other content. Create a table of contents that reflects the content hierarchy, and include an index that users can browse. You can also create browse sequences, paths a user can follow through Help topics. For example, if a user must read several related topics to understand a feature completely, you can link them in a browse sequence.

5. Customize the output.

You can apply layouts (which determine behavior and appearance) and formatting. You can also use conditional text to show or hide content, depending on user interest, application being used, skill level, and other factors. Add multimedia to make your Help more compelling and richer.

6. Create, test, and distribute the Help package.

Create the output so you can view the Help and check links, formatting, and so on. Test every output you intend to distribute, including printed documentation.

About projects

Projects contain the source files that become the final Help system. Help authors work with the project files, and Help users view the output. For CHM output, the project contains the content you create and the properties you set up, such as what the output window looks like. The developer determines the window for webhelp and flashhelp output formats, or leaves them to run in your browser window. Create folders in the Project Manager to organize topics and structure the Help system.

Projects are collections of files. The project file (XPJ file) contains information about the content and properties of the project. Whenever you change the project, this file (and any other affected file) is updated automatically. Project files consist of the following:

Content
Project files contain topics with content and information about the location of topics, images, index, TOC, and other files.

Properties
Projects contain setting information, such as project title, language, and windows. When you first create a project, the basic (default) settings are used. Modify these settings according to your design needs.

Navigation
Projects include a table of contents, index, and full-text search.

You can view the elements that make up a project in several places, including the Project Manager, Single-Source Layouts pod, and Project Settings dialog box. You can also generate various reports (Tools > Reports) that identify project status, duplicate topics, files distributed with Help, and so on.

Help project components

Help systems are made up of different components that vary according to the Help format you deliver.
Projects
RoboHelp HTML creates a main project file (with the extension .xpj) that contains the information about your topics, images, and other files. (Open this file to open a project.) Project files also contain the settings that affect the appearance and functionality of a Help system.

Topics
The basic unit of a Help system is the topic. Topics communicate the message of the Help system, mainly through text and images. You decide the content, format, and organization of your topics.

Table of contents
If a table of contents is included, users see a Contents tab or button when they open the Help system. The table of contents presents a hierarchical outline of what the Help project contains. Users can browse and select topics to view from the Contents tab.

Indexes
If an index is included, users see an Index tab or button when they open the Help system. The index displays a multilevel list of topics and keywords or phrases that you’ve specified.

Full-text search
Full-text search allows users to find specific words and phrases that occur in the content.

Links and navigation
Users navigate a Help system by clicking links. You design the strategy that connects your topics together. The most common links are from one topic to another. Links can also go to topics in different Help systems, different output formats, and even to a website or an application.

Styles
You format topics using styles. Styles are named formats that you design and apply to control the layout and appearance of text.

Image and multimedia files
Images and multimedia files enhance Help by adding graphics, sound, video, animation, and more.

Windows
Windows are the frames that display topics. In certain output formats, you can customize the appearance and attributes of windows. You can also design new windows to suit your content. You can open multiple windows and from the Windows dialog box, select a window and click Activate to bring it to focus. Click Save to save the displayed window in focus. Using the Windows feature, you can rename the project title to display in the output.

Compilers
The Help compiler isn’t part of the final Help file, but you sometimes need a compiler to create the Help file. For example, in Microsoft HTML Help projects, the compiler aggregates the source files and other project components. The compiler then creates one Help system file that you distribute to end users. (WebHelp and FlashHelp projects are not compiled.)

Viewers and browsers
Users access the Help system from within a viewer or browser.

Files in a project

Main project file (XPJ)

The project file (.xpj) is XML-based. You can open project files with the .mpj extension, the format for older versions of RoboHelp, but they convert to XPJ files.

Folder files (FPJ)

Each project folder has an FPJ file that lists the folder contents. RoboHelp displays only those subfolders and topics that are listed in the FPJ file of a folder.

All the subfolders have their respective FPJ files. The name of an FPJ file except the FPJ file for the project folder is same as that of the folder.

The name of the FPJ file for the project folder is root.fpj. The root.fpj file is modified if you add, delete, or rename a topic or subfolder inside the respective folder. The root.fpj file is also modified if the order of topics or subfolders is changed in Project Manager.

Single-source layout files (SSL)

A single-source layout file (SSL) is used for each single-source layout. An SSL file stores the properties of the respective single-source layout and is modified when you edit the properties. An SSL file does not get modified on generating, viewing, or publishing a single-source layout.

Auxiliary project files (APJ)

The following components have corresponding APJ files, which get modified when you edit the components:

  • Baggage files

  • Colors

  • Conditional build tags

  • Font sets

  • Information types

  • Map files

  • Pop-up note topics

  • See Also keywords

  • Skins (when adding or removing skins only)

  • Single-source layouts (when adding or removing single-source layouts only)

  • Topic keywords

  • Topic templates (when adding or removing single-source layouts only)

  • Windows

Other types of files

When you modify the following components, the respective file gets modified:

  • Browse sequences (BRS)

  • Topics (HTM)

  • TOC (HHC)

  • Index (HHK)

  • Glossary (GLO)

  • Image and multimedia files (filename extension varies)

  • Style sheets (CSS)

About output types

RoboHelp can generate the following output types. These types have common basic characteristics but different features and viewing and platform requirements.

WebHelp
Adobe WebHelp format works with virtually any combination of browser and platform for web-based or desktop applications, online Help, and online books. WebHelp also provides customizable navigation panes and quick downloads.

WebHelp Pro
WebHelp Pro is used for web-based applications, with features available only in server-based Help. WebHelp Pro provides feedback on the use of your Help system. Authors can work on separate projects and publish anytime, and projects are merged on the server at run time. RoboHelp Server is required to generate WebHelp Pro.

FlashHelp
Adobe FlashHelp® uses Adobe Flash® to provide an interactive navigation pane, customizable navigation controls, Flash animation, streaming video, audio, and graphics. Users need Flash Player.

FlashHelp Pro
FlashHelp Pro is used for web-based applications, with features available only in server-based Help. Authors can work on separate projects and publish anytime, and projects are merged on the server at run time. RoboHelp Server is required to generate FlashHelp Pro.

Microsoft HTML Help
Microsoft HTML Help is used as application and stand-alone Help for Windows 98 and later, using Internet Explorer 4.x or later, and provides unique features.
Note: Due to Microsoft security changes, Microsoft HTML Help is now used where the Help has to be run on the users PC; it cannot be installed on a server without registry changes. WebHelp and FlashHelp are used where the Help is to be run from a server. WebHelp and FlashHelp can be run locally, but it is not recommended.

XML
XML output exports to Extensible Markup Language (XML) format, used to structure, store, and send information. XML files use style sheets, as well as handler files. Handler files determine how RoboHelp imports or generates the XML files, associated style sheets, and related components.

JavaHelp
JavaHelp, from Sun Microsystems™, works with Java applications and is a delivery system, not an authoring tool. JavaHelp features (TOC, index, searches, controls, global search and replace, pop-ups) are created automatically, along with HTML features (links, Related Topics buttons, and image files).

Oracle Help
Oracle Help for Java™ is used with applications written in any language. Oracle Help and the ICE 5 browser provide TOC, index, full-text searches, pop-ups, context sensitivity, and customizable windows, through the Oracle Help viewer.

Printed documentation
RoboHelp enhanced printed documentation provides control over structure, content, and appearance of printed documents. You can organize the content as needed, format using CSS or Word template styles, and produce formatted and structured Word documents or PDF files.

Adobe AIR
The Adobe AIR output type allows you to generate Help in Adobe AIR format. Generate your content in the cross-platform Adobe AIR Help format that brings a host of enhancements, such as these:
  • Easy navigability through breadcrumbs, and more

  • New templates and skins

  • A rich branding experience, and the ability to insert corporate logos and an About box in Help

  • Rich commenting and auto-updates

  • Browser-based Help, with both offline and online content.

  • Ability to add and access RSS feeds

  • Enhanced search

End-user viewer requirements

End-user system

WebHelp/Pro

FlashHelp/Pro

Microsoft HTML Help

JavaHelp*

Oracle Help

AIR Help

Windows XP SP4 or later, XP, Vista

Web browser

Web browser with Flash Player 8.0 or 9.0

Built-in viewer

JavaHelp viewer

Oracle Help viewer

AIR Help Runtime

Mac OS, Linux®

Web browser

Web browser with Flash Player 8.0 or 9.0

Not available

JavaHelp viewer

Not available

AIR Help Runtime

* Requires JavaHelp viewer, Sun Java 2 JDK or later, and JavaHelp 1.0 or later components.