Notorious

Sarah O'Keefe / Reviews1 Comment

There’s no such thing as bad publicity, or so the saying goes.

But RoboHelp is trying.

MonkeyPi weighs in with his, er, unique style. In a lengthy discussion of a recent Adobe webinar on RoboHelp, he says this:

But the kicker comes when [Adobe product evangelist] Jacquez says, “…the closest [online help tool] to RH is Microsoft’s HTML Help Workshop.” The clear implication is that RoboHelp is teh awesome, and teh other toolz are teh suxors. Why even Micro$oft’s crappy free tool places higher then our pathetic competitors!!

Adobe says that their competitors’ claims were misleading:

Jacquez says, “…competitors telling people that [RH] is dead… one has to wonder what the competition is going to say when their customers begin to return their product because they bought it under the pretense that RH was dead.”

Let’s get something very clear here. After Macromedia bought eHelp, they killed RoboHelp. RoboHelp was dead — Macromedia was interested in RoboDemo (now Captivate) and not in any other component of eHelp’s product line. So, they laid off most of the RoboHelp team.

Enter MadCap. Many of the ex-RoboHelp people thought that there was still a market for a help authoring tool, so they formed the new MadCap Software and built Flare. And much of Flare’s marketing was based on the idea that 1) RoboHelp is not going to have any updates and 2) Flare is the natural successor to RoboHelp.

Fine. But then Adobe bought Macromedia. And Adobe does have a significant presence in the technical writing market, so suddenly the strategy changes. Adobe decides to resurrect RoboHelp.

All of this makes perfect sense. And there’s nothing particularly nefarious about what happened. RoboHelp didn’t make sense in Macromedia’s web-heavy product line-up. RoboHelp can make sense for Adobe, especially if they market RoboHelp, Captivate, Acrobat, and FrameMaker as a core set of technical writing tools, along with Photoshop, Illustrator, DreamWeaver, Flash, Acrobat 3D, and others for more specialized requirements. You can see some of this positioning beginning to happening in the Adobe webinar.

Meanwhile, though, response to RoboHelp 6 has been, at best, mixed. One day after MonkeyPi’s dissection of the webinar, we have 10 Reasons Not to Upgrade to RoboHelp 6 at I’d Rather Be Writing. They include the following (read Tom’s blog for an explanation of each item):

1. Communication from Adobe is bleak.
4. Not compatible with Word 2007.
5. Requires at least 15 macros to clean up [print] output
9. Interface is 1996.
10. Its apparent ease of use is only because you’ve been using it for 10 years.

The writer seems particular offended by Adobe’s lack of response to questions and comments during the webinar and on their new TechComm blog:

[…] Adobe’s RoboHelp blogger either is totally clueless about responding to comments, or he doesn’t understand that a blog is not a PR marketing vehicle. […] Sorry Adobe, but you really get a D when it comes to communication.

This is interesting. Five years ago this would have been a non-issue — obviously Adobe gets to control the content of marketing communications on their web site. No more.

As I use RoboHelp about once every five years, I don’t really have an opinion on the merits of the tool. But I am watching the blog-kerfluffle with some interest, especially as I wonder what reaction to FrameMaker will look like, when they release their next version, probably in mid-2007 (according to public statements from RJ Jacquez).

About the Author

Sarah O'Keefe

Twitter

Content strategy consultant and founder of Scriptorium Publishing. Bilingual English-German, voracious reader, water sports, knitting, and college basketball (go Blue Devils!). Aversions to raw tomatoes, eggplant, and checked baggage.

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