New member?

Subject: New member?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, Mike Schmidt <mschmidt -at- weathercentral -dot- tv>
Date: Tue, 01 Aug 2006 14:46:16 -0400

Mike Schmidt wrote: <<Allow me to introduce myself. I'm Mike Schmidt, a tech writer (the only one, actually) at Weather Central, Inc. in Madison, WI.>>

Welcome to the fray! (To the frayed and 'fraid? To the fried? <g>)

<<I've recently been commanded to abandon all the tools I've been using for years (and know intimately) in favor of the Adobe Suite. I've also been commanded to "establish a timeline and list of resources that would be needed" to do this.>>

The first question to ask in such situations is the following: "What problems are we trying to solve through this change?" If the person proposing the change can point to specific problems, you can at least spend some time researching whether they're real or only perceived, and whether you can solve them.

If they're real problems and not easy or even feasible to solve, the next question to ask is whether CS solves those problems. If so, perhaps you're stuck with this situation; you may even come to appreciate the situation. If not, the person commanding the change may have difficulty making a strong case for the change. (Of course, tyrants don't really have to make a case, do they?)

My biggest concern would be replacing RoboHelp. I don't much keep up with help technology these days (I'm Content Boy(R), not Tool Boy(R) <g>), but I do use Adobe CS, and don't see any good help-development tools to match RoboHeck. On the other hand, you can create text in any software and pour it into RoboHeck for conversion into help, so it may not be an either/or issue.

<<In short, is there anyone out there that's had to convert a sizeable amount of their own material to a completely new format?>>

Yup. Did it several years ago to move from AmiPro to Word on the PC at work. Did it again at home a few years later to move all my WordPerfect files to Word when they abandoned development of WP for the Mac. It's painful, but with a little automation (mostly macros for conversions that didn't work well), it went smoothly.

<<I am totally at home with the programs I've been using for, in some cases, my entire career, and I'm not thrilled about dumping it. I'm sure Adobe stuff is great, but it's the learning curve and tons of busy work I'm not terribly happy about.>>

Unfortunately, we all tend to get complacent about the software we use, and forget that it's just a tool. I fought the move to Word right to the bitter end, was over-ruled, and ended up liking Word just fine once I adjusted to its many weirdnesses. You may too.

<<At any rate, I expect I'll need some training and lots of time to convert existing material, without even thinking of the constant stream of new material being created.>>

Make sure you emphasize this aspect of the process. Don't oversell the difficulty, but do make sure to give yourself a safe margin to cope with learning curve and the additional workload.

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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WebWorks ePublisher Pro for Word features support for every major Help format plus PDF, HTML and more. Flexible, precise, and efficient content delivery. Try it today!
Doc-To-Help includes a one-click RoboHelp project converter. It's that easy. Watch the demo at

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