RoboHelp Help Authoring Software and Online Information Systems
David Locke, WordSmith, Ltd.

Years ago, critics claimed about online help: "I can't find it." "If I can find it, it doesn't tell me what I need." The failures of help resulted, in part, from the absence of appropriate models or paradigms of online information. Models were borrowed from the paper world. The results we know.

From its initial roll of providing occasional user assistance and guidance, online help has evolved into sophisticated, online information systems and has become a primary resource for training and education. At this months meeting, David Locke, principal consultant with WordSmith, Ltd., located in Nashua, NH, ( will investigate the design, development and integration of useful and user friendly, online information systems. He will consider online help systems, demonstrate Blue Sky Software's RoboHelp help authoring tools (, and explore the evolving help authoring formats.

Over the last seven years help evolved slowly, on a platform whose relative stability now seems remarkable. The underlying RTF format changed little, and gradually help authors began to develop models more appropriate to the medium. Context-sensitive help evolved. Help began to help.

But in February, 1996, real change struck. Ralph Walden, then lead help developer for Microsoft, announced that henceforth RTF-based WinHelp would be frozen, to be replaced within a year and a half by HTML Help.

In the time since then:

o The change has taken a lot longer than Ralph predicted

o A lot more has changed than anybody predicted

The change to HTML Help is not complete. Thanks to new standards and to XML, the HTML format is far from stable. Changes in the nature of applications themselves are forcing a re-design of the purpose, structure, and content of help.

In his presentation, David will also review with examples the evolution of help-the content and the formats, including the good, the bad, and some ugly-and examine the challenges brought by the conversion to HTML-based formats.

David Locke has worked with computer documentation and training since 1983, specializing in online information systems. He is a member of the Society for Technical Communication and the HTML Writers Guild; serves on the faculty of Help University; and is a certified RoboHELP® consultant and trainer (

This meeting, sponsored by the Worcester County IEEE Computer Society will be held on Monday, October 19th at Kronos, Inc, Waltham, MA. For further information contact Al Reinhart, 510 Edgebrook Drive, Boylston, MA 01505, 508-869-6417 (Office), 508-869-3420 (FAX),


Heading South on Route 128: Take Waltham Exit 27A, Totton Pond Road / Wyman Street. The exit ramp will merge with Totton Pond Road West. Merge into the left lanes and follow the signs to Totton Pond Road East towards Waltham and Route 128 (you are making a u-turn, make sure you get in the correct lane). Proceed over Route 128 and at the second traffic light (the first and second traffic light are separated by about 50 feet) turn right onto Third Avenue.

Heading North on Route 128:Take Waltham Exit 27A, Totton Pond Road. Proceed up the exit ramp and just before the traffic light, bear right towards the stop sign. Turn right onto Third Avenue.

On Third Avenue: Proceed about a 100 yards and turn left onto Fifth Avenue, the first "real" left just before the Westin Hotel. Proceed up the hill on Fifth Avenue, at the top turn (bear) right. You will pass 4 buildings (3 red brick and 1 tan brick) on your left. Kronos is located in the last (4th) building on you left, the only tan brick building in the office park.

Park in the parking lot and proceed to the main entrance of the tan brick building. Signs in the lobby will direct you the meeting room. (If you get lost, ask for directions to the Westin Hotel in Waltham.)