3 things you didn't know about help authoring tools

Things you didn't know

If you have ever tried to write any type of documentation then you know that the process isn't as easy as you might think. Writing high quality help documents or manuals takes time and a lot of planning to make sure all the functions of the product are correctly explained. Many technical writers will have heard about help authoring tools, and some may even have thought about giving them a try, but been unclear exactly what the benefits are of using a help authoring tool compared to employing a standard word processing package. Here are three ways that a help authoring tool can help you to write better help documentation.

Easily analyze your writing and spot problems

Help manuals can become complicated documents, with a long list of topics to cover and full of media elements and hyper-links. Staying on top of all of these different aspects and ensuring they are all up-to-date can take a long time if you write your document in a word processor. Using a help authoring tool will make the job much faster and more straightforward.
Help authoring software can come with an analyzer that checks your document for misspelled or broken links, and identifies duplicate or missing media elements throughout the whole document.
The software lists all library elements and hyper-links in lists that can be easily filtered and sorted to quickly identify and fix any problems. By using a help authoring tool you can be sure that all of your links are working correctly. It is also easy to check that you have inserted all the media elements into your document properly, and not missed anything out.

Create an iPhone website in minutes

Often with help documentation the finished manual needs to be available in more than one format. Perhaps as a PDF file or an EPUB for offline reading on whatever device the end-user may have to hand. Frequently it is also helpful to have the help documents available online in HTML for ease of access. Producing the documents in all of these formats might take a while if you are working in Microsoft Word or any other word processing package, but by taking advantage of a help authoring tool you can create multiple formats very easily. Even iPhone websites can be built in a few minutes using the powerful template system incorporated in some help authoring software.

Help authoring tools can be free to use

Cost is often the biggest factor in determining whether or not to use a piece of software. Even if authors have been convinced of the benefits of using help authoring software they frequently assume that software which has all of these functions is going to be expensive, and unless they plan to write a large number of help manuals they don't consider it a worthwhile investment. It is true that there are some very expensive help authoring tools available, but not all of them have to cost a lot and some, including HelpNDoc, are free for personal use. If help authoring software is free to use and can help you to produce your manuals in a fraction of the time it takes using a word processor then why not give it a try today?