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Macromedia plugs RoboHelp X5

Web-design software maker Macromedia's recent acquisition of help-authoring company eHelp Corp. bore fruit last week with the release of new versions of two eHelp products: RoboHelp and RoboInfo.

RoboHelp X5 is the newest version of eHelp's venerable help-authoring tool, the sales of which, the company claims, account for two-thirds of the professional help development tools market. Developers and technical writers use RoboHelp to create professional help systems and documentation for desktop and Web-based applications.

"RoboHelp is all about simplifying and speeding the development of help systems," said Miriam Geller, Macromedia's director of product management. "The people who tend to use RoboHelp are either technical writers or software developers who want a tool that gives them complete control over the content while handling the technical details for them.”

With RoboHelp X5, the company has provided a number of new features, including support for XML, PDF import/export, content management, distributed workforces, team authoring capabilities and the newly released JavaHelp 2.0 from Sun Microsystems.

RoboHelp X5 also includes FlashHelp, a bandwidth-efficient and firewall-friendly help format based on Macromedia Flash that is designed to be consistent across most browsers and platforms. Macromedia has been trying to change industry perception of Flash as simply a format for Web ads to a broad foundation for delivering Internet applications and building interactive Web sites. With more companies delivering rich Internet applications using Flash, Geller said, the ability to include integrated help has become an important capability.

RoboInfo 5.0 is a policy and procedures publisher designed for human resource departments, IT staffs, call centers, government agencies and healthcare organizations, Geller explained. It was designed to address the requirements of users who need to organize, manage and deliver documentation online.

"In essence, RoboInfo is a subset of RoboHelp that takes away some of the capabilities and functions that this audience doesn't need or want, while adding tools and templates that help them to create these policies and procedures," Geller said.

RoboInfo 5.0 includes a number of enhancements in workflow, document control and collaboration, including audit trails, version rollback and file sharing. A server-based Pro edition of the tool has reporting tools that reveal usage patterns, which allows managers to adjust the content to better serve their employees. It also includes natural-language search tools and full-text search for non-English languages.

eHelp was a 12-year-old, privately held operation when Macromedia acquired the firm last December for $65 million. "We saw a lot of synergies between Macromedia and eHelp," Geller said. "Both companies were focused on providing great digital experiences -- eHelp through its help and training software that delivers user assistance and tutorial content, and Macromedia through its authoring product family."

Macromedia is pricing RoboHelp X5 at $899 with a $100 rebate. Upgrades from RoboHelp 2002, RoboHelp X3 and RoboHelp X4 are priced at $499. Upgrades from RoboHelp Versions 4 through 9 are priced at $699. RoboInfo 5.0 is available for $799, with the Pro edition going for $1,799.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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