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Earlier today, I reported a problem in which two seemingly identical help
files produced different results: the English compiled without error, but
the French version compiled without its Contents tab. I received several
If the two help files lie in the same directory or are subdirectories of
each other, there's the possibility the help compiler could get confused.
(That wasn't the case for me.) Blue Sky tech support has suggested erasing
all .gid files in the project directories, then recompiling, but that also
proved fruitless. One obvious problem would be a mismatch between the names
of the HLP and CNT files, but that wasn't the case here; moreover, I did
remember to copy both these files to the programmers (something I have
forgotten in the past, with predictable results).
A little more prodding at the problem revealed that the cause of the problem
lay nearer to home than RoboHelp: with me! When I opened the files in
Microsoft's Help Development Kit, hoping that a fresh new interface would
show me aspects of the project I was blind to in RoboHelp, and tested the
TOC, there turned out to be no topics in the Table of Contents! Now I _know_
that I created the table of contents in RoboHelp, since I translated the
context strings/IDs into French by myself, but the TOC wasn't there at all
according to Microsoft. (And if you can't trust Microsoft, who can you
trust? <g>) Recreating the table of contents manually in RoboHelp solved the
problem. All I can figure is that as a result of the dread ILOVEYOU virus,
which caused our network guys to restore the entire server from a previous
backup, my carefully modified help project files didn't get restored from
the backups, leaving me with an earlier version. (Yes, that's my fault. I
should have been more careful about this. Fortunately, I had a good backup
of the help file itself to work from.) Chalk this up to the "Geoff needs to
be reminded periodically that Homer Simpson lives in all of us" syndrome.
Opinions concerning editing the HPJ file by hand were mixed: although there
are theoretically no problems if you know what you're doing and don't
introduce any typos or incorrect options, there's a chance that manual
changes to the file_aren't_ picked up by RoboHelp, and thus might be ignored
in future builds. Help coder beware!
RoboHelp (now eHelp) runs useful support forums, reachable at
Thanks to Susan Ahrenhold, Melissa Fisher, Joanne Grey, and Gay Reed for
"Technical writing... requires understanding the audience, understanding
what activities the user wants to accomplish, and translating the often
idiosyncratic and unplanned design into something that appears to make
sense."--Donald Norman, The Invisible Computer