Since the creation of Microsoft's WinHelp over ten years ago, user assistance professionals have increasingly relied on authoring tools to assist us in our daily work. Today, with our more diversified documentation set, the number of tools we regularly use has become quite sizeable. Which tools do most of us find useful? Which tools provide us with the most satisfaction? This portion of the survey supplies you with a peer review to assist you in planning your tool acquisitions.
You can find links to all of these tools in the Tools section of the WinWriters Online Help Resource Directory.
We presented respondents with a list of commonly used tools and asked them to provide us with a satisfaction rating for the ones they used. The figure below shows the percentage of respondents using a particular tool.
Adobe Acrobat and Microsoft Word lead the pack with nine out of ten of us using those tools. Acrobat PDF is listed in the Technology section of this report as the most valued of all our technologies. So it's not surprising to see Acrobat here as a popular authoring tool. Microsoft Word acts as the centerpoint for development of our content as well as being a host for Help topic authoring. Being a core component of Microsoft's Office suite puts Word into the hands of the majority of corporate workers.
RoboHelp dominates the Help authoring space with over two-thirds of the respondents using one or more versions of the popular eHelp product.
Paint Shop Pro has many competitors in the low-end graphics market, but its free trial version program, aggressive pricing, and ease of use have put it into the hands of 57% of us.
FrameMaker is popular (51%) because of its robust capabilities for large-scale documentation development. But that market niche has thinned over the past few years leaving Adobe with few competitors.
Web-specific authoring tools have a presence. Dreamweaver (34%) is the most popular choice followed closely by FrontPage (29%). The use of FrontPage has dropped by 10% from the 2001 survey.
Microsoft's HTML Help Workshop (33%) is a free utility that provides basic support for HTML Help authoring. PhotoShop (33%) and SnagIt (31%) are image manipulation utilities.
The figure below shows the percentage of respondents being Happy ("4") or Extremely Happy ("5") with each of the tools.
ForeHelp from ForeFront scores at the top of the list with 84% of respondents ranking it highly. Unfortunately, ForeHelp is no longer in production as ForeFront went out of business this year.
The authoring tool mif2go (80%) is used for developing HTML Help.
Of the top ten products on the tool satisfaction list, seven are also on the most-used list.