Useful Tools and Links

What's covered?

Links that I have found particularly useful.

 

Site / Tool

Content

AbleStable An interesting site from Mike de Sousa, one of the guys behind SyncBack referred to below. Includes links to a range of useful freeware including ColorCop, great for getting the colour values of anything you see on screen.
Replace Text (previously BKReplaceEm)

A multi-file find and replace tool. I prefer FAR (see below) but this one has the advantage that it is free! FAR has, in my opinion, better functionality and a better interface to justify the low cost.

Batch File Renamer

I use Batch File Renamer when I need to:

  • Add prefixes and suffixes
  • Change the case
  • Fill blanks with underscores
  • etc.

There seems to be a problem on the devoloper's site but you can still find it at www.snapfiles.com and some other sites. Be careful about other products with the same name. This is the one that in my opinion has much better functionality.

Edit Pad Pro An excellent text editor. There's also a free version for personal use but the Pro version is worth the price. The Pro version lets you create a version that works from a portable drive.
FAR

An excellent find and replace tool with many other useful authoring tools built in.

It's also an excellent launch pad to a whole host of useful stuff.

Folder Content Compare

The free version of Vice Versa's excellent tool to compare the contents of a folder and report the differences. Can be set to compare just the file size and date for speed. The CRC method also checks content. Use the "both" for a complete check.

If you have two copies of a project and are not sure what the differences are, or even if there are any differences, this will resolve the problem.

HTML Code Tutorial Somewhere to learn about HTML. Clear explanations. Also see w3schools below.

HTML Entity Lookup

Firefox Addin

 

Two links here.

The first takes you to a webpage where you can enter something like "arrow" in a field and the page will show you all the arrow symbols that can be created using entities, there are more than shown here. You can click the clipboard symbol to add the html code to your clipboard. Great for finding the more obscure entities without scrolling through a list of all of them.

 

The second link takes you to a Firefox add in that is based on the same code.

Click the install icon and download the XPI file to your PC. Go to the XPI file in Windows Explorer and drag it to a Firefox window and release it to install.

Ignore the Dashboard Widget you see unless you are running an Apple Mac.

HTML Kit A free HTML editor with a HTML Tidy built in for cleaning the extra lines of code that Word puts into the html version of a document.
Hypertexas John Daigle is a certified RoboHelp and Captivate trainer. His site covers various areas and has some very useful links including to his topics on context sensitive help and source control.
IDBE Ribbon Creator

Word 2007 stripped power users of the ability to customise their menus and create toolbars. What Microsoft gave you was what you got. Your old toolbars appeared in the Developer ribbon in a pretty ugly way. The main reason was that support desks would be able to tell users what to do without hearing "that option is not in my menu." That was great for support desks but a nightmare for power users wanting to set things up for their workflow.

Word 2010 restored the ability for individuals to add items to a menu or ribbon and create their own ribbons. But what if you wanted to share that new ribbon with someone else? Simple, export your UI and let them import it. The problem with that was that their customisations got wiped in the process. Neat! NOT.

What I needed was the ability to give a significant number of people a specific ribbon that did not work that way and left their customisations untouched. Microsoft do give you the ability to do that using the Custom UI Editor, which is fine if you have developer level knowledge of Word. I don't. That's where Gunter Avenius' IDBE Ribbon Creator came in.

Using just its interface you have access to many built in Word commands and many icons. If that is "all" you need, it is straightforward to use, after a few attempts you can have a good looking ribbon.

It gets a bit more difficult if you need to use your own macros as you have to reference them in a module that IDBE supply. It's not simple but I did manage to get it working and I do not regard myself as a Word developer. I can copy and manipulate macros but not write them from scratch.

If the Custom UI Editor is beyond you, this is certainly a good low cost way to create ribbons. The work I produced has been so popular that instead of being rolled out to maybe a hundred or so users in my division, it is being rolled out across the group.

To help you understand how support for this product works, anything you do in its interface is supported. If things you write in the supplied module do not work, that's for you to resolve and is outside the scope of their support.

Indoition

As it says on Marc Achtelig's site...

"Do you write technical documentation? Here you can find know-how, tools and links that help you to design and to write clear, concise, user-friendly manuals, online help files, screencasts and other forms of user assistance."

Marc provides a lot of information and lists many of the tools that make life easier. Well worth a look.

Macro Express

Write macros that work with any application.

  • Link it to RoboHelp so that you can have shortcuts to change styles in the same way as in Word.
  • When variables are not the solution, insert text that you repeat throughout your help so that you always get it word perfect.

It's low cost and you will wonder how you survived without it.

MagicThumb

RoboHelp 2017 has added the ability to have thumnail images in specific HTML5 layouts. It will be quicker to implement but MagicThumb has more options.

Do you want thumbnail images that expand when the user hovers the mouse over them? Maybe you want one click to expand and one click to contract? Try the images below.

This one will expand over the thumbnail when clicked. Click the image or the optional button to close it.

I have set it to just have a close button. If you are setting up an image gallery, you can also have Next and Previous buttons.

This one will centre on your screen when clicked. Click the image or the optional button to close it.

I have set it to just have a close button. If you are setting up an image gallery, you can also have Next and Previous buttons.

This one will expand when you mouseover the image and contract when you move the mouse away.

I have set this image up with no buttons. It's an option with any effect and because moving the mouse away closes the image, I saw no point in having a button here.

 

The discrete acknowledgement on the image is there because Magic Toolbox have kindly allowed me to use the free home use version. It does not appear if you are using the commercial use product, which is inexpensive.

In Dreamweaver you insert the thumbnail and link it to the full size image, then you add the parameters to get the effect you want, apply a style class and that's it. The required CSS styles can be added to an existing style sheet or you can use the supplied CSS.

In this page I have applied the paramater to each image because I want different effects. If I wanted to have the same effect for all images, I would add the information after the reference to the javascript file.

<script type="text/javascript"
src="yourpath/magicthumb/magicthumb.js"></script>
<script type="text/javascript">
MagicThumb.options = {
'expand-trigger':'mouseover',
'expand-align':'image'
};
</script>

Support has been excellent.

Notepad ++

This is a free text editor with excellent colour schemes for HTML and JS files. It really is very good and it integrates with the context menu in Windows Explorer so that you can open any file using this tool. Many RoboHelp files can be edited in this way.

There is also a portable version that you can run from a flashdrive. Click here.

OverLIB For those of you up to speed with javascript, this site has scripts that enable you to provide bubble text information while hovering over text.
PowerGrep If you need to search and replace across large numbers of text or html files without opening them, this is the tool. The search can be text based or a regular expression.
Regular Expressions Info A site devoted to writing regular expressions. Includes a tutorial.
Regular Expressions by Rob Christenson Written for Dreamweaver MX2004 but still good. Explains the concept well.
Rick Stone's Site A major source of help for technical authors. Lots of "how to" stuff and workarounds.
RoboHelp Links

Feature request / Bug report

Please follow this link to report bugs and request features. The more people who do so, the higher it gets prioritised.

RoboHelp Training

If you are looking for online training, Rick Stone (RoboWizard) is one of the world's most experienced RoboHelp users and he provides training through one of his sites.

www.showmesolutions.biz

Snagit Far and away the best screen capture tool around with too many features to list here.
SyncBack A great program that automatically backs up files for you or synchronises folders. You can use it to upload your webhelp to the server and keep the server free of files that are no longer used. See Publishing WebHelp
w3schools.com

An excellent source of "how to" for html, css and so on. As well as the tutorials for newbies, it has some excellent reference topics for the old stagers. A 'must visit' site. Also see HTML Code Tutorials above.

Xenu

An excellent freeware link checker. If you have merged webhelp, RoboHelp does not report broken links across projects so you need a utility to do this. Dreamweaver and FrontPage have such functions but see how quick this one is.

Thanks to Roger Nilsson of Copperfield Publishing for this link.

Donations

If you find the information and tutorials on my site save you time figuring it out for yourself and help improve what you produce, please consider making a small donation.

Topic Revisions

Date

Changes to this page

06 Feb 2017 Topic reviewed. Various links removed as no longer valid, sadly including TopStyle, my favourite CSSS editor. It is still available (Google it) but no longer supported.
06 Dec 2012 Text Crawler added.
25 Oct 2012 IDBE Ribbon Creator added.
13 Apr 2011 List revised.
24 Oct 2009 Top Style added.
21 Jun 2008 Microsoft Visual Web Developer added.
12 Apr 2008 Link to Rob Christensen's Regular Expressions article added.
24 Mar 2008

Books section removed - referred to manuals intended for delivery by qualified trainers.

Showmesolutions site added for online training.

25 Nov 2007 Word 2007 Ribbon Customiser added.
24 Oct 2007 HTML Entities added.
10 Jul 2006 Link to Techwrite Tips added.
22 Jun 2006 Link to Frank Palinkas' page added.

02 May 2005

Link to Hyperionics added.

24 Nov 2004

Link to Vice Versa's free folder compare tool added.

20 Nov 2004

Link to HTML Kit added.

20 Aug 2004

Link to Xenu added for link checking.

24 Jul 2004

Links to Cerebral Synergy, Downloads and Freeware Files added.

23 Jun 2004

Link to RoboHelp Help Community added.

09 Jun 2004

Link to topic that includes creating tables using Macro Express added.