Although I have been out of the technical writing trenches for some time now, I enjoy staying in touch with my techdoc buddies and keeping up with the hot issues. One I remember well is the challenges in the early 90’s of single-sourcing documentation for print, electronic, and context-sensitive online help delivery.

Apparently it’s still hot, despite the release of RoboHelp6 from Adobe, a tool I remember quite well. This is the first product update Adobe has released since the company bought Macromedia over a year ago. Product reviewers generally agree that Adobe beat the estimated delivery date by months, although there is some confusion over dueling version numbers according to my friend Char James-Tanny over at Still, an early release is a good sign in terms of a company’s current and future commitment to a product.

On the other hand, product reviewers also seem to agree that “XML does not seem to be a priority.” Hmmm. That certainly does not bode well for champions of single-sourcing for multi-channel publishing (although the new version automates hyperlinked PDF creation.) Even more interesting are the passionate responses to an unfavorable monkeyPi product review, including an extremely detailed rebuttal from Rick Stone, Adobe’s Community Expert for the product (although he’s not an employee…)

Without claiming to have reviewed the product, what I find most interesting is Adobe’s focus on source and version control, team collaboration and workflow, and the usage tracking capabilities of RoboHelp Server6. Adobe describes this latter feature as the ability to identify frequently-viewed content, view usage statistics, and uncover search trends.

As we’ve discussed in numerous posts, relevant content and customer experience are intrinsically related, whether the project is Web site design, localization efforts, or yes, even online help development. (Part 2 of our series on this subject, Small Content Changes, Big Impact takes place on Thursday February 1st.) Assuming RoboHelp Server6 provides the insight into the online help user experience it claims, its value to techdoc departments striving for more “upstream impact” in their organization could be quite significant.