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Great End User Documentation Tools for Documenting Your Software
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Resource for software documentation tools, utilites and services
When creating software applications it's a great idea to create documentation so that end users know how to use your new application.
Traditionally software documentation used to take the form of a printed manual to accompany the software's disks or CD-ROMs. Nowadays there's a whole load of delivery options for end user documentation, including:
- Printed manuals
- Adobe Acrobat (PDF) manuals available for download or on CD/DVD
- Microsoft Word or RTF documents
- Online website help
- Company Intranets
- Windows Help Files (HTML Help .chm files)
It can be hard to keep all these different sources of documentation up to date, especially if the software often has essential product updates and new releases.
Popular End User Documentation Tools
End user documentation tools are application software packages for creating application help. Popular end user documentation tools include: RoboHelp, Doc-To-Help and WinCHM. There are many other end user documentation tools but which one you choose will largely depend on your budget as well as your requirements.
Adobe's RoboHelp is a sophisticated help authoring tool and is a great choice if you want ot publish your help documentation to many different media such as those listed above. RoboHelp is the closest thing that the user documentation industry has to a standard application for creating help files.
Doc-To-Help can import Word or HTML format documentation and output high quality end user documentation in a variety of different documentation formats including HTML Help, Adobe Acrobat PDF, Microsoft Word, WinHelp, JavaHelp and Help 2.0. Being able to create printed and online documentation means that it has a huge range of flexible output options. It's also possible to use Doc-To-Help to produce customised versions of documentation for different end users. This is a nice feature as it means that you'd be able to create different end user documentation for novice users and power users!
Most documentation software solutions are designed to be easy to use by a range of people including software developers, managers and dedicated technical authors.
A Free End User Documentation Tool
If you have a low (or no!) budget then Microsoft's HTML Help Workshop is available as a free download from the Microsoft website. I've used it to create my own end user documentation for my own shareware applications. It's perfectly capable of building basic HTML Help .chm files for Windows applications. However it can be hard to create good .chm files from heavily customised HTML.
The HTML Help .chm file compiler is also buggy and it can be extraordinarily difficult to pinpoint what HTML is causing the problem. The nice thing about .chm files created with HTML Help Workshop is that they are fully searchable by the end user, and it's also possible to build an index so that users can find important information about your product.
Good luck with writing your end user documentation.
- Software Code Documentation Tools
Useful tools for documenting source code (C#, VB.NET, Visual Basic 6.0, ASP, PHP) and databases (SQL Server and MySQL)