Edit: Some clarifications:
- We already use Help and Manual for our help files
- The question is really what to use that allows us to make hyperlinks from help file to presentation, and back, and still have presentation be "easily presentable".
I'll look into the answer about converting PowerPoint files to HTML first, to see if that works for us. It very well might.
I apologize for the long question, and I tagged it subjective, because there probably is no single answer.
We're in a position where we're re-evaluating the tools we use to provide various sources of information for our end-users.
Here's what we have to date:
- CHM files with help for our product (or a bunch of .html files for network shares)
- PowerPoint files with presentations, used during workshops and classes in using our product
- Html files and similar with eLearning tools
- A word file with all the technical changes and product changes, bugfixes, etc. that we do from one major release to the next
What we're finding is that it would be hugely beneficial to try to integrate everything into one product.
My question is this: Has anyone been in this situation, and what did you do? What tools did you look at, did you find any good ones, what are you doing now? Our main problem with integrating everything into one system is that the PowerPoint part, where you put up a slide of keywords on a projector, and then move from slide to slide, becomes problematic unless the integrated system has some kind of "projector mode" with easy navigation, something that pure html pages doesn't, unless they're coded with that in mind.
Anyway, the benefits...
For one, we could provide stable hyperlinks from one "system" to another, so that for instance the presentations can contain links to the relevant parts of the help file. The users get their own copy of the presentation files when they leave our class, so they can open them up and use them when they get back to their own workplace, and as such it would be nice to make it easy for them to find related material, without relying on them, or their IT personnel to do everything 100% correctly when placing the files on their machines.
With our current setup, a hyperlink from the PowerPoint file has a relative address to the corresponding part of the help file, and if the user doesn't organize the PowerPoint and .HTML files in the same way locally (for instance, the directory is renamed, everything is in one folder, etc.), then the links doesn't work, even though the files are there.
For the help files we're using Help and Manual, and we're thinking of standardizing on this product for most of the things. The eLearning part is maintained by a separate company, so we're not sure if we want to bring that into the mix now.
Here's what we think we can gain by integrating the changelog+technical info, the help file, and the class documentation into one system:
- Stable hyperlinks, that works. No more "make sure the PowerPoint files and the html help files are located in this exact way on your local disk", between all the systems.
- One table of contents, and one index, which brings together all the systems into one (for the user it will appear the help file just got a lot more information)
- Various outputs: We can produce a single .CHM file, a set of html files, a word file, a pdf file, all with clickable, working, hyperlinks, and various other bonuses for finding related material, from the same source project. No cut-and-paste from one system to another.
- We can integrate everything into the help system in our product. When the user clicks on the help button on a form in our product, they not only can see the direct help file, but they would be able to find the class presentations that were used to teach those things, as well as links to technical information the IT personnel can use to troubleshoot things, or configure things.
- Multiple people can work on the same material here at our place, at the same time. With PowerPoint and Word files into the mix, they quickly become bottlenecks in hectic periods, and Help and Manual allows multiple people to work on the same projects at the same time.
- Reuse assets, images and screenshots produced for one "system" can be reused in another without making duplicates, update one (when a new major release changes the layout, colors, etc.) and we update them all
What we lose:
- PowerPoint presentation mode. One thing we wonder about is holding the actual classes, as the presenter now has a html file instead, and has to make sure to point the mouse to the "next page" button (that Help and Manual adds), instead of being able to use one of those clicker-devices to quickly go to the next and previous slide. Also, no "one keyword at a time" effects on slides.
So, any thoughts?