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HelpXplain Animated Infographics Beta Program

Try out HelpXplain now by joining the beta program

HelpXplain is an exciting new program from EC Software that takes the pain out of making HowTo tutorials and other animated infographics for the web. You can see some examples and join the beta program here:

http://helpxplain.com/

HelpXplain takes the pain out of making HowTo tutorials

HelpXplain can make a whole range of different web-based infographics, but for documentation authors its ability to make animated HowTo tutorials is nothing short of revolutionary. Instead of trying to get every step of a “performance” right you just make a series of screenshots that the program then links together in an editable screencast with an animated, editable mouse cursor. Let me put what this means this into perspective from the point of view of a documentation author.

From typewriter to word processor

I’ve been working with HelpXplain for a while now while writing the help for it. For me as a help author there is one aspect of it that stands out from all the others. It reminds me of the huge aha experience I had the very first time I saw a word processor. The one thought I had was: “I am never going to have to retype anything ever again.” That was huge. For writers of all kinds, it is still 99.9% percent of the benefit of using a word processor instead of a typewriter. Everything else that modern writing tools do is nice to have, but all those additional functions are still nothing compared to the ability to edit and change your text without retyping everything.

From video screencasts to HelpXplain

HelpXplain is the first time that I have had a similar experience as a documentation author. It is really comparable. Like everyone else, I experimented with using video screencast tools like Camtasia and Captivate. Like everyone else outside of very large, very rich companies, I abandoned them very quickly. They only make sense if you have a huge amount of time to work on little video tutorials, and if someone is willing to pay you a reasonable hourly rate for that time. Both of those things are simply unrealistic expectations for most technical writers working in today’s market. It just doesn’t happen. You’re not going to have that much time to work on a tutorial, and even if you do nobody is going to pay you for it.

Video: When you had to do it just right

But that’s not the only problem with video screencast tools: They are very stressful and thus unpleasant to work with, because you have to get everything right. If you make a mistake while making the video you have to start again. And again. And again. And again. And if you ever need to add something you have to remake the entire screencast. Again. I found this so unpleasant that I would do pretty much anything to avoid having to make video tutorials even if I did have the time and reasonable payment for them. To be honest, I would probably even pay to not have to make them.

HelpXplain: Work at your own speed, correct later at leisure

That is why HelpXplain is such a revelation for me, personally, quite separate from the fact that this is an EC Software product. Once you get the hang of it, making little HowTo tutorials is literally as easy as making a series of screenshots — which is what we are doing anyway. And it is completely stress-free: I don’t have to get my timing right and I don’t have to worry about needing to set up everything right. Between screenshots I can take my time to make any changes I want in the program. And not only that: If I ever need to change or add something I can do that at any time, without having to redo the whole thing.


HelpXplain New Dialog

There is no doubt that making tutorials with HelpXplain is radically faster and more pleasant than struggling with a video screencast tool. In fact, for myself, I could say that it is infinitely faster, because with HelpXplain I am actually making the tutorials, whereas with video screencast tools I wouldn’t be making them at all. Not in the real world.

HelpXplain can do a lot more. But if you’re a documentation author, taking the pain out of making HowTo tutorials for documentation simply makes it a must-have.

Tim Green

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New share buttons on our news blog

Today we implemented the social media plugin Shariff, which enables website users to share their favorite content without compromising their privacy.

Facebook, Google+ and Twitter supply official sharing code snippets. These original share buttons automatically transmit data of your visitors to the social network sites as soon as they visit your website. Visitors do not even need to click on a share button for this and therefore have no choice, if they want their data to be sent.

The German computer magazine CT has developed Shariff (/ˈʃɛɹɪf/), a social media plugin that fulfills the strict data protection laws in Germany and the European Union.

For more information about the Shariff project check out the original GitHub project page.

These social media buttons below are for your convenience – a single click will share this post to your favorite social media site. But as long as you don’t click any of these buttons, they won’t leak visitor information to 3rd party sites. In other words: Facebook has no idea that you are currently viewing this page. If we used the regular Facebook share button, they would know.

Enjoy your privacy while reading this blog!

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Beta Test: Cloud-based HM Translation with Smartcat

Smartcat is a cloud-based translation ecosystem that is already widely used, supporting both advanced machine translation and translation by traditional human translators, or a combination of the two. Recently, customers have started asking the staff at Smartcat whether the system could process Help+Manual XML topic files. They looked into it, contacted us for the specifications and the result is now a working beta version that is ready for testing.

Call for beta testers

If you are looking for alternative ways to translate your Help+Manual documents you are invited to participate in the free beta test of the new Smartcat system. Pavel Doronin and his team would really appreciate your feedback and suggestions for possible improvements.

How to participate

You just need to register an account at Smartcat, or use your existing one if you already have one. Then send a message to the Smartcat support team at support@smartcat.ai with a request that you want to enable Help+Manual support in your account.

About H+M support in Smartcat

Currently you can import individual/multiple XML files (both topic files and TOC files), not entire projects. You can then translate them yourself, assign them to a translator or apply machine translation. Both H+M’s traditional XML and the new TidyXML introduced with version 7.3 are already fully supported.

Full project import may be added in a future update. Any and all other suggestions you may have are very welcome, of course.

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A great example of integrated WebHelp from Scooter Software

We recently worked with Scooter Software to better integrate their online help into their website.

Scooter makes BeyondCompare, the best multi-file comparison tool on the market. We use BeyondCompare ourselves to synchronize and merge source code changes and Scooter uses Help+Manual for producing their own documentation.

A WebHelp version of BeyondCompare’s documentation is also available online. The old version didn’t match their beautiful Steampunk theme, which we really love. That was a pity, because Help+Manual is extremely powerful when it comes to embedding help content into your website.

This has changed in their gorgeous new version, however: Starting with a draft of a new WebHelp skin that matches the design of their web pages, the web designers at Scooter then fine-tuned the skin and fully integrated it in the host pages. The result is a beautiful example of what is possible with Help+Manual with just a little extra tweaking:

http://www.scootersoftware.com/v4help/

Scooter Software Webhelp

 

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Mail us your Premium Pack 3 language files!

We are preparing the next update of Premium Pack 3 and we would like to include as many language files for the skins as possible in this release.

If you have added your own language interface for your skins you can save the language file very easily with Premium Pack Toolbox. Just load the skin in Toolbox, then select File > Premium Pack Language Files > Save PP Language File and type only the language of your skin as the name (for Example “French” or “Hindi”). Everything else is automatic.

Then just mail the file to us at support@ec-software.com so that we can include it in the upcoming release.

Thanks a lot!

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Russian Help & Manual user forum available

There is now a new addition to the Help & Manual online community: Russian users of Help & Manual can discuss the program with other users on the Russian user forum managed on the Techwriters.ru site:

Main forum site:

http://techwriters.ru/forum/

Help & Manual section:

http://techwriters.ru/forum/forum636/ 

Note that this is an independent user forum that is not managed by EC Software. See this page for all the user forums now available for Help & Manual:

http://www.helpandmanual.com/support_forum.html 

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