Focus, Focus, Focus

Posted on: January 27th, 2010 14 Comments

It never fails.  We ship the quarterly ePublisher release and the challenge begins anew:

What are we going to ship THIS quarter?

Marketing is analyzing, Sales is requesting, and Support is demanding.  And on the other side of those groups are our customers.  Some, we will delight. Others will curse our names, shocked to find that we have chosen a challenge other than the one they face.  The choices are never easy even when the strategy is clear:

All we have to do is choose wisely.

Here’s a summary of what’s on our plate:

  • Enable per Target settings in the Style Designer
  • META data and keyword marker support (for formats other than WebWorks Help 5.0)
  • PDF library update
  • Research environment specific issues affecting PDF production
  • Work-arounds for FrameMaker instabilities
  • Windows 7 certification

And then there’s the list of things that COULD be on our plate:

  • DITA Open Toolkit 1.5 integration
  • XSL-FO processor alternative to Apache FOP
  • Ignore files extension list (for Stationery creation, file copies, etc.) to avoid version control issues
  • Conditional Expression Builder UI for FrameMaker 8, 9 users
  • RoboHelp migration path
  • WebWorks Help replacement (faster loading, cleaner design)
  • Support for custom index markers
  • Wiki projects

What would you choose?

14 Responses

  1. I would choose:

    1. Support for custom index markers
    2. Support for custom index markers
    3. Support for custom index markers
    4. Ignore files extension list (for Stationery creation, file copies, etc.) to avoid version control issues

    The others don’t affect me, but custom index markers is definitely my pain point. A WWH replacement is intriguing, but other than loading faster and a cleaner design, I’m not sure what it offers my users. On my end, it doesn’t offer anything.

  2. Marcus Baake says:

    My favorite would be:
    * WebWorks Help replacement (faster loading, cleaner design)

    I love the rich functionality of WebWorks Help 5.0, but the loading times really give me headaches for years… If it would help, I’d give my left arm for a faster loading format with the same features! ;O)

  3. John Pitt says:

    It just has to be:
    “WebWorks Help replacement (faster loading, cleaner design)”

    But…closely followed by:
    “RoboHelp migration path” — for that stack of legacy RoboHell projects cluttering up the network. Then I can forget the hell that is RoboHell.


  4. allums says:

    It’s on the list Lief!

  5. allums says:

    WebWorks Help… got it.

    RoboHelp – We’re seeing a lot of requests for this in the last month. What’s going on? People are finally ready to exit?

  6. […] RoundUp 2009 feedback session.  This year, I asked for reader’s help in last month’s Focus, Focus, Focus blog entry.  Those ideas have been added to the great material users submitted as enhancement […]

  7. John Pitt says:

    Perhaps I’m being greedier than usual (I’ve already made a couple of requests, above), but circumstances change and different priorities bubble to the surface:

    * Conditional Expression Builder UI for FrameMaker 8, 9 users


  8. I second John’s suggestion completely!!!

    The Boolean Expressions maybe the key feature in FM 8/9 to prevent DITA for another period of time 🙂 but you have to be able to *use* them – with predictable results, of course.

    Software engineers are very tricky in using there modules in different contexts – and we have to be able to do this, too. I think simple “classic” conditions are simply not enough.

    IMHO the “per target styles” *together* with the “expression builder” would be the killer feature for all of us having to meet intricate connditional output requirements.

    Best regards,


    Time for my old std. discl, I think:
    “All above has to be turned into decent English.”

  9. […] research is tricky business.  Knowing how to help your current customers is an easy affair (Focus, Focus, Focus).  Keep your ears open and they will tell you what they need.  Finding something new that both […]

  10. Tamara Friedman says:

    These are two issues I tossed back and forth with Support until it became clear that there was no solution in the present release (2008.4-2010.2). Both relate to multi-volume help projects.

    For Microsoft HTML Help 1.x: ability to compile multiple FrameMaker books into a single .CHM file for delivery to the customer. Currently, the customer has to download each book-turned-chm along with one .chm file that connects them all. (We would rather have one 15mg chm than five 3mg chms with a 200k chm combining them.)

    For WebWorks help 5.0: Navigation markers: 1) show visited links. It’s disorienting not to know where you’ve been on a help site, especially if you’re searching for a particular topic or type of information. 2) Enable multi-volume bread crumbs. I’ve implemented the work-around but it requires extra customization and then replacing parts of the content.xsl file at upgrade.

  11. allums says:


    The limitation with WebWorks Help 5.0 is certainly a challenge. The links are implemented using JavaScript, and there is no simple way to engineer ourselves out of that box. We are investigating options, but they require a re-design to accommodate the change.

    Regarding your HTML Help issue, ePublisher can certainly deliver a single CHM file to your customers. You need only create a single top-level group and add all your documents there. Or take your existing project and nest the existing groups under a single entry. The challenge here may relate more to how your context-sensitive help links are handled. I’m not sure if your interface to your application programs can handle a single CHM file. One possibility is to work with two projects. One that generates individual CHM files for use with your product. Another that generates a single CHM file with all content included for web download.

  12. Tamara Friedman says:

    Thanks for your feedback. I’ve tried both methods (and others) for getting a single CHM for download. The Customer Support Rep even took my files and tried. From what I’ve read and tried, WW MS HTML 1.x produces a CHM for every book/group and one CHM as an entry-point file. The customer needs to download all book/group-level CHMs as well as the entry-point file in order to access the individual content. So for me, that’s seven CHMs.

  13. Ben Allums says:


    I did just review your case. I will follow-up with Support to make sure they understand. This issue isn’t related to merge settings. It relates to your top-level groups. Just make sure you only have one. That will generate a single CHM file, as you desire.

  14. Israel Dalven says:

    By default for WWH5 projects, the IE Title bar reads [Topic name] – Windows Internet Explorer and the Tab is labeled [Topic name]. I would like to see the Title fixed with text of my choice. This can be accomplished by editing the help.js file and placing the desired title in the Merge Settings, even in single-file projects.

    This should be made easier with a dialog box not connected with merge. To me, it makes good sense to have the name of the help system shown in a prominent fixed place just as it is in Headers of printed documents.
    The breadcrumbs provide the topic name, there is little need for it to be in the browser window title or tab.

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