Happy Birthday, RoboHelp!

You may not be aware of this and you certainly will be forgiven if you didn’t know, but – Adobe is celebrating RoboHelp’s 20th year in existence. I know. Really, I do – it isn’t nearly as earth-shattering an anniversary as a child’s birthday or a 20th wedding anniversary, but still, it is an important moment for many of us.

My first experience with RoboHelp was in 1993, as a new immigrant to Israel. I was asked if I needed work just three days after I arrived; went to an interview two days later, and was offered a job. I wasn’t exactly a technical writer; I was more an Information Manipulator.

I was given a user guide and a program called Guide 3.0 to use. The user guide’s instructions were wrong. I followed them carefully several times and never got the desired results. In frustration, I went back to my manager and explained. Yes, I can follow directions – when the directions are correct.

She showed me how to do it – confirming for both of us that the manual was wrong. I used Guide for a few months and then was introduced to RoboHelp. I had a lot of questions and I asked them on several email lists.

After a while, I noticed that I was answering as many questions as I was asking. I felt that I was returning the favor done to me in those early days, and I still feel that way.

In 2000, eHelp asked me to join their Advisory Board and become an MVP (Most Valuable Professional). I asked them what was involved (I’d just given birth to my 5th child, was running WritePoint and several writers and life was full already). “Just what you are doing,” they told me – use RoboHelp, answer questions. “And you get free software.”

Well, free software sounded good and RoboHelp was and is a fun and amazing tool, so why not?

A few years later, Macromedia bought RoboHelp and I was asked if I would become a Macromedia Team Member. Life was still full. My kids were growing, my business was growing, I was moderating Techshoret and HATT and I wasn’t sure I had more time to put into anything. What  “Just what you are doing,” they told me, “and you get free software.”

Well, free software is cool and RoboHelp was still setting trends and defining the help authoring world. For a while, though, RoboHelp stalled at version X5 and people starting saying RoboHelp was dead, dying, going. It was hard to believe and yet the evidence was mounting.

I explored other tools, the richer for having gained experience with other wonderful tools such as Flare and Doc2Help and still kept working first with Macromedia and then Adobe when they acquired Macromedia.

“Do you want to be an Adobe Community Expert?” I was asked (later to be renamed Adobe Community Professional). Again the question; again the answer. But more, the commitment.

Yes, I have followed RoboHelp for most of its existence, as it has been my companion. It is an amazing tool. Like Microsoft Word, it is a trend-setter. RoboHelp made WinHelp manageable, created WinHelp 2000, and finally WebHelp.

Like all of us, it has aged over time, expanded its capabilities and increased its ability to deal with modern technologies and needs. The latest version – RoboHelp 9, has some exciting features – I’ll be showing them off at the upcoming MEGAComm conference on February 20th.

It’s a great release coming before the 20th anniversary. I feel that a friend has come of age, better for the trials and tribulations it has survived along the way. RoboHelp is richer for the competition that has joined the industry in the last few years and we are all more experienced and marketable for mastering tools beyond RoboHelp.

But there is and will always be a part of me that loves RoboHelp because of the long history we have together. It sounds silly, but we have traveled a long way over the years, experienced so much.

We have both matured, established ourselves in the industry. WritePoint is recognized – truly recognized as the place to go for training, for quality documentation, for help conversions – for RoboHelp in Israel.

Like RoboHelp, I believe we have set a standard and like RoboHelp, we have shown we are in “it” for the long haul. We have weathered storms and competition and remain true to our ultimate goal of producing something that shows quality and history.

So, happy birthday, RoboHelp, from someone who has seen you, watched you, worked with you much of the way.