Authoring and publishing workflow using FrameMaker and RoboHelp

If your authoring and publishing environment includes these two tools, you have multiple options of incorporating their strengths into your workflow.

You can map FrameMaker formats directly to RoboHelp styles in a standard CSS that ensures consistency in appearance and behavior across the entire project. In addition, within FrameMaker, you can use markers to denote context-sensitive topics, which you can directly reuse in RoboHelp to create a context-sensitive Help system.

FrameMaker and RoboHelp as independent products
If you have FrameMaker and RoboHelp as independent products, you can retain your authoring workflow. In this workflow, you author content in FrameMaker for print and PDF output. Then you use RoboHelp to generate richly formatted online Help. Both FrameMaker and RoboHelp provide enhanced features for importing FrameMaker content into RoboHelp projects. You can also use them together to create online Help formats such as WebHelp and Help based on Adobe AIR.

Adobe Technical Communication Suite
Adobe® Technical Communications Suite provides technical communicators a streamlined workflow to author content once and deliver in multiple formats. You can author in FrameMaker and publish richly formatted PDF for print and online viewing. Technical Communication Suite provides more features than the component applications that make the suite. You can integrate FrameMaker and RoboHelp authoring and publishing and dynamically link FrameMaker and RoboHelp content.

Adobe Technical Communication Suite includes Adobe Captivate and Adobe Photoshop—tools that you can use to include rich multimedia capabilities in your output formats. In addition, you can use Adobe Acrobat to set up shared reviews and consolidate review comments and edits. You can later import these comments and edits into your FrameMaker documents.

Authoring considerations for optimizing for online output

If your authoring process in FrameMaker is optimized for print output, consider the following before linking or importing FrameMaker documents into RoboHelp projects.
Heading formats
Determine the best mapping of FrameMaker heading formats to RoboHelp styles. FrameMaker documents define various heading formats specifically for print documentation. Among these formats are side heads and heading styles that start on a new page. These formats don’t apply to online formats. You generally map these heading styles to a few standard styles in the RoboHelp project.

Page layout settings
Often FrameMaker chapter templates specify an even number of pages so that new chapters begin on a recto (right) page. For online Help, ignore these pagination considerations.

Headers and footers
RoboHelp ignores headers and footers during conversion, including legal text such as “Confidential” and copyright lines. Include such text in the headers and footers in a separate step, after conversion. Similarly, in RoboHelp, re-create watermark text or images that you used in the printed documentation. Use the master page feature in RoboHelp to make these corrections.

Navigation
In print, cross-references specify page numbers which are irrelevant in Help. Converting to online Help removes chapter and section titles in headers and footers. You can enhance navigability by using breadcrumbs, and back and next buttons instead.

Redundant content
To provide context in different sections of a printed document, writers generally add redundant information such as brief summaries of concepts covered previously. Because online Help is a random-access, nonlinear medium, it requires less redundant content. Use cross-references and conditional text options to minimize redundant content in your outputs.

Chapter versus topic
In printed documentation, chapters signal stand-alone logical units, which readers use to grasp the scope of content. Online Help segregates content at topic level, accessed one topic at a time. You can group the content into chapter-like folders that expand when a user navigates the table of contents. Even so, only one topic appears at a time. In this case, try to provide comprehensive information without adding redundancy by grouping related topics together.

Context sensitivity
Although you can assign map IDs to topics in RoboHelp, you can also assign context-sensitive Help markers in FrameMaker documents. RoboHelp reads these markers and assigns the map IDs to the generated topics. Ensure that the topics created in FrameMaker contain sufficient information.

For example, a short procedure as a stand-alone topic does not provide conceptual context for the reader. To avoid creating topics with incomplete information, assign context-sensitive Help markers to topics at a higher level. In this way, the generated Help topic contains the concept, procedure, and any relevant graphics.

Prepare FrameMaker documents for conversion to Help

If the FrameMaker document that you are importing is an unstructured FrameMaker book, you can define a single FrameMaker template for the conversion. You can then specify this template as the project template that overrides the formats of individual documents at the RoboHelp project level. You can also reuse the conversion settings across other projects by exporting the conversion settings.

Carefully examine the FrameMaker templates before importing the documents into RoboHelp, such as when you use a general-purpose FrameMaker template. If this template contains formats that aren’t used in the book, omit those formats in the template you use for the conversion.

  1. Create a FrameMaker template that contains the formats you need in Help. Alternatively, customize the FrameMaker template. You don’t have to apply the template manually. You can set RoboHelp to apply a selected template to FrameMaker files before they are linked or imported to RoboHelp.

    In Structured FrameMaker, the element definition document (EDD) or the DTD used in the structured FrameMaker template automatically controls formatting. Because structured FrameMaker enforces a valid structure and format, structured documents do not contain format overrides.

  2. Create the required DHTML effects such as expanding text and drop-down text using the RoboHelp menus in FrameMaker.

  3. Apply context-sensitive Help markers to the required topics.

  4. Enclose graphics, callouts, and graphic or text frames you created with FrameMaker graphic tools in anchored frames. RoboHelp imports only those FrameMaker graphics that are enclosed in anchored frames.

    By default, graphics and multimedia files imported into a FrameMaker document are placed in anchored frames. If your FrameMaker document contains graphics in graphic frames, place them in anchored frames before linking or importing the FrameMaker files into RoboHelp.

  5. To maintain the original quality of images, insert them in FrameMaker documents by reference. RoboHelp copies the referenced images directly from the source if the complete image is visible inside the anchored frame. Similarly, if the images are large, insert them in the source document by reference.

  6. Fix any issues in the document such as unresolved cross-references, missing fonts, and irregular numbering issues.

  7. Set up alternative text or captions for the images and graphics to create accessible online content.

  8. Apply conditional text settings in FrameMaker documents.

  9. Edit the FrameMaker TOC reference pages to have indented hierarchical headings with different styles.

Linking options for documents

When you link a document to a RoboHelp project, you have two options. To specify the linking options, in RoboHelp choose File > Project Settings. Click the Import tab and select one of the following:
Create a Reference
You create a reference to an external document. In this case, the source document is not copied into the RoboHelp project folder and remains outside the project. You can edit and update the source document independently. Later, in RoboHelp, you can update the topics generated from the linked document.

Use the linking by reference option to bring in content that is shared across multiple projects. Because only a single copy of the document exists, any change in the source document is reflected in all projects to which this document is linked.

Create a Copy and Link
You create a copy of the source document and link to the RoboHelp project. In this case, a copy of the source document is copied into the RoboHelp project and is visible in the Project Manager pod. You can edit and update the copy without affecting the source document. You update the topics generated from the copied document whenever you edit the document.
Use the Create a Copy and Link option to restrict access to the source document. This option allows editing only in the copy available in the RoboHelp project. For example, if you want to bring in content from a static FrameMaker document, link the document by copying it to the RoboHelp project.
Note: FrameMaker books are always linked by reference, irrespective of the linking option you choose.

Trade-offs between linking and importing

  • Link FrameMaker and Word documents when your entire authoring is in one or both of these tools. You can make full use of RoboHelp’s advanced integration features, such as converting TOC, index, and glossaries, and creating context-sensitive Help. Whenever the source content changes, you can quickly update the topics generated in RoboHelp from the linked documents. In such cases, RoboHelp converts your FrameMaker or Word documents to multiple Help outputs with a few clicks, with little, or no native authoring in RoboHelp.

  • Import FrameMaker and Word documents when you have multiple independent documents and carefully use RoboHelp’s integration features. In addition, ensure that the documents you import are stable and don’t require updates independently until you have finished publishing the online Help.

  • Avoid editing the generated topics in RoboHelp so that you don’t lose your edits if you have to update the generated topics or overwrite them. Topics generated from linked documents can be preserved with their edits, but topics generated from imported documents are overwritten.

  • If you are making minimal updates to a large RoboHelp project, it is best not to link or import documents into RoboHelp. Doing so can disturb the natively created TOC, index, and glossary, pagination, and context-sensitive Help settings.

Linking and importing FrameMaker documents

The RoboHelp workflow for linking or importing FrameMaker documents allows you to do the following:

  • Create a RoboHelp project by importing a FrameMaker book or DITAMAP.

  • Link or import FrameMaker book or DITAMAP into a RoboHelp project.

  • Link or import FrameMaker documents into a RoboHelp project. You can import FM, MIF, DITA, and XML files.

When you link a FrameMaker book or DITAMAP, HTML files are not created until you define the project settings and generate the Help topics. At the same time, you can see the added files in their hierarchical order. Importing the FrameMaker documents and editing the HTML files generated from them in RoboHelp does not affect the source FrameMaker documents.

Before you import FrameMaker documents, check them in FrameMaker for errors such as unresolved cross-references and format overrides.

Create a RoboHelp project by linking or importing FrameMaker books or documents

You can create a RoboHelp project by importing FrameMaker books or documents.
  1. On the RoboHelp Starter page, click More under Import, or select File > New > Project.

  2. On the Import tab of the New Project dialog box, select FrameMaker Document and click OK.

    Importing a FrameMaker book or ditamap to create RoboHelp project
  3. Select the FrameMaker book or document from the Files Of Type pop-up menu. Then browse to select the FrameMaker book, and click Open.

Import a FrameMaker book or DITAMAP into RoboHelp project

  1. Create a project or open an existing project in RoboHelp.

  2. Select File > Import > FrameMaker Document.

    Importing a FrameMaker book or ditamap into a RoboHelp project
  3. Select FrameMaker Book or FrameMaker DITAMAP from the Files Of Type pop-up menu.

  4. Browse to select the FrameMaker book or DITAMAP file and click Open.

  5. Optionally, select a DITAVAL file and click Open. Click Cancel to proceed without a DITAVAL file.

If you are importing a FrameMaker document, you can select the components that you want to import from the Content Settings wizard that appears. You can select the TOC, index, and glossary, and specify the conversion settings.

Note: FrameMaker documents created in versions earlier than 6.0 (FRM files) can be imported but not linked.

Link a FrameMaker book or DITAMAP into RoboHelp project

  1. Create a project or open an existing project in RoboHelp.

  2. Select File > Link > FrameMaker Document.

    Linking a FrameMaker book or ditamap into a RoboHelp project
  3. Select FrameMaker Book or FrameMaker DITAMAP from the Files Of Type pop-up menu.

  4. Browse to select the FrameMaker book or DITAMAP file and click Open.

Note: FrameMaker documents created in versions earlier than 6.0 (FRM files) can be imported but not linked.

Generate HTML topics from linked FrameMaker documents

Linking FrameMaker documents does not automatically create the topics. You generate the topics after you set the project and conversion settings.

 Do one of the following:
  • Right-click the linked FrameMaker document from the Project Manager pod and then select Update > Generate.

  • Select File > Update > Generate.

However, if you are importing a FrameMaker document, topics are generated immediately according to the conversion settings you specify. In addition, you can select the components that you want to import from the Import wizard that appears. You can select the TOC, index, and glossary, and specify the conversion settings.

Convert a FrameMaker TOC

When you import a FrameMaker book to a RoboHelp project, you can also import the table of contents (TOC). Import the TOC into the RoboHelp project to retain the navigation structure you defined in the FrameMaker book.

  1. Select File > Import > FrameMaker Document.

  2. In the Content Settings dialog box, select Convert FrameMaker Table Of Contents, and browse to select the FrameMaker TOC file.

  3. Select one of the following options:

    Add To Existing TOC
    Appends the TOC entries to any existing RoboHelp TOC in the project. Select an existing RoboHelp TOC from the list.

    Create New Associated TOC
    Enter a name for a new associated TOC that is added to the RoboHelp project.

Styles in the FrameMaker TOC determine which TOC items become books, sub-books, or pages. The most important element in determining the level is the left-most indent, followed by the font size and font weight. TOC entries that have indented items under them become books in the RoboHelp TOC. If all the TOC entries have the same indention, font size, and weight, the TOC in RoboHelp appears flat.

  • To make a heading a main book, include indented heading levels beneath that heading, or use smaller fonts or no bold for the subsumed headings.

  • To make a heading a sub-book, place the heading under a main heading. Then include indented heading levels beneath the sub-book heading, or use smaller fonts or no bold for the subsumed headings.

  • To make a heading a page, don’t include any heading levels beneath that heading. Indent the page heading, or use smaller fonts or no bold.

Differences between FrameMaker and RoboHelp TOCs

You can either import the FrameMaker TOC or automatically create a TOC in RoboHelp from generated topics.

  • In FrameMaker, the TOC is generated according to the heading styles that you include in the TOC. In RoboHelp, the TOC is generated according to the topic titles. If you use topic name markers in FrameMaker to name the topics when you import FrameMaker documents, filenames in RoboHelp differ from the topic titles.

  • Autocreating a TOC for a FrameMaker 9 book can create multiple layers of content because of the folder structure in a FrameMaker 9 book.

  • In RoboHelp, you can place a TOC placeholder in another TOC, thus allowing you to create nested TOCs.

Import FrameMaker index entries

RoboHelp creates an index based on the index markers in the document you are importing. However, the index file generated in the FrameMaker book is not imported into the RoboHelp project.

  1. Select File > Import > FrameMaker Document and select the FrameMaker book or document.

  2. Select Convert Index in the Content Settings dialog box, and select one of the following options:

    Add To Existing Index
    Add the FrameMaker index entries to the existing RoboHelp index of the project.

    Create New Associated Index
    Enter a name for a new associated index that is added to the RoboHelp project.

    Add To Topic
    Add the FrameMaker index entries to individual topics in which they appear.

Import glossary definitions

RoboHelp creates a glossary based on glossary markers in the document you are importing. The text inside the glossary marker is the glossary term, and the paragraph text that contains the marker is the definition.

  1. Select File > Import > FrameMaker Document and select the FrameMaker book or document.

  2. Select Convert Glossary in the Content Settings dialog box, and select one of the following options:

    Add To Existing Glossary
    Add the FrameMaker glossary to the RoboHelp glossary of the project. You can select the glossary from the list.

    Create New Associated Glossary
    Enter a name for a new associated glossary that is associated with the existing glossary in the RoboHelp project.