Help authoring tools

August 2007 note: This page is out of date and unlikely to be updated.

This page provides links to several vendors of help authoring tools that online editors (and writers) may find useful.

Help types and development tools change frequently. This list was correct in December 2003, but it is far from complete. Many other help authoring tools exist. Check vendors’ sites for latest products and their capabilities.

Windows

Microsoft Help Workshop
You can produce fully functional WinHelp using the free Microsoft Help Workshop. Look on your hard disk or the Windows CD for a file named HCW.EXE.
HTML Help Workshop
You can produce fully functional HTML Help using Microsoft’s free HTML Help Workshop. Download the latest version from the Microsoft site, http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/tools/htmlhelp/chm/hh1start.htm

Help authoring tools can make the job easier, and provide features not available in the basic help workshops. Here are a few of the tools available. Most have evaluation copies available.

HelpScribble
JGSoft, http://www.helpscribble.com. At the inexpensive end of the scale (US$99), HelpScribble is a full-featured, easy-to-use, stand-alone help authoring tool for creating WinHelp (.hlp), HTML Help (.chm), a printed manual and online documentation (on a web site) all from the same project. Does not require Microsoft Word.
Author-It
AuthorIT Software Corporation, http://www.author-it.com/. A powerful collaborative authoring environment. Now includes a localization manager. Generates printed documentation (Word, RTF, or PDF), WinHelp, HTML Help, browser-based help, Sun JavaHelp, and Oracle Help for Java from a single source. Does not require Microsoft Word or any other word processor, but can import files in Word, RTF, and other formats.
ComponentOne Doc-to-Help
ComponentOne, http://www.componentone.com/. Outputs compiled HTML Help, browser-based help, JavaHelp, WinHelp, and printed documentation. Requires Microsoft Word.
HDK, XDK, and related products
Virtual Media, http://www.vmtech.com/. Requires Microsoft Word. HDK outputs HTML, HTML Help, HTML-based help, WinHelp. XMheLp technology lets you create Web-based online help systems that will work on most platforms. XDK outputs HTML, DHTML, HTML Help v1 (CHM), HTML Help v2 (.NET), XHTML, JavaHelp, and XML (with XSL and XSLT).
HyperText Studio
Olson Software, http://www.olsonsoft.com/. Creates WinHelp, HTML Help, HTML files (for help, websites, intranets) and printed docs. Does not use Microsoft Word.
RoboHelp Office and related products
eHelp, http://www.ehelp.com/. Creates Help systems for desktop applications (Windows, Mac, Linux) and Web-based applications. Produces WinHelp, HTML Help, JavaHelp, HTML-based help, FlashHelp, printed documentation. Writers can work in Microsoft Word, RoboHelp’s built-in HTML editor, or any popular editor such as Dreamweaver or FrontPage. A new version for FrameMaker is also available.
MIF2GO
Omni Systems, http://www.omsys.com/. Converts from FrameMaker MIF to HTML, XML, printable Word RTF, HML Help, and WinHelp. Requires FrameMaker.
WebWorks Publisher
Quadralay, http://www.quadralay.com/. Two versions, for Adobe FrameMaker files or Microsoft Word files. Produces output in HTML, XML, WinHelp, HTML Help, JavaHelp, and other formats.
FAR
The Helpware Group, http://www.helpware.net/FAR/index.html. A collection of file and HTML Help utilities for all Web, HTML Help 1.x & MS Help 2.x authors. Provides intelligent Find and Replace across your entire Web site; CHM link checker; TOC and Index editors; CHM comparison and extraction tools; Web to HTML Help wizards; and more. Another inexpensive solution for HTML Help production.
HTML Indexer
http://www.html-indexer.com/. Creates real back-of-the-book indexes for Web sites and other HTML documents, and indexes for HTML Help and JavaHelp.

Macintosh

December 2000 note: I had three products listed for the Macintosh, but two of them have either moved from the addresses I had, or have been discontinued.

QuickHelp for Macintosh
QuickHelp files can be authored on Macs or on PC-compatibles. They are then compiled on a Mac to produce a QuickHelp help file. A runtime help engine which provides Microsoft Help capability on the Macintosh platform. The development kit consists of a compiler and a redistributable, end-user viewer. Available through Altura.

Linux

Most Linux GUI documentation is provided in HTML. (Creation of documentation for command-line Linux software is not covered here.)

Changes are rapid in the Linux development world, so by the time you read this, other help types and authoring tools may be available. For more information, please consult Web sites or printed publications devoted to the Linux platform.

DocBook
A Document Type Definition for SGML and XML. The most complete documentation tool available for Linux. http://www.docbook.org/. Other software (not covered here) allows you to export DocBook files to formats such as HTML, PostScript, or RTF. The open-source office suite, OpenOffice.org, exports to Simplified DocBook.
QuickHelp
A development tool for creating and distributing online help for Linux applications. QuickHelp consists of a Builder for creating the help topics and a Viewer for deploying them to end-users. The help information resides in a single XML file distributed with the QuickHelp Viewer. For a full description, see http://www.excelsoftware.com/quickhelplinux.html
Viewlet Builder
From Qarbon, http://www.qarbon.com/. The leading simulation software and animated help authoring tool. Runs on both Windows and Linux. Creates animated online presentations for product demonstrations, software tutorials, online documentation or e-learning material.

Last updated 16 December 2003

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