Productivity Tools For Technical Writers Part 1

Helpinator is not a big player like Help&Manual or RoboHelp or Madcap Flare, it’s a tiny tool compared to them, so right from the start it was focused on handy features that solve one specific problem at a time. And a time spent on repetetive tasks while maintainig a documentation project is the problem that we were trying to address. Here’s what we did:

1. Quick project navigation

Large projects tend to be hard to navigate. The project tree becomes too large and it takes a lot of time to switch from one content piece to another. Helpinator allows to do it quick (of course if you can recall at least partially the ids of the items you look for)

1.1 Tree filter

Above the project tree there’s an edit field with a looking glass icon. Typing something it it causes the tree to show only content items with names that contain the text entered.

On the left there’s a set of icons that allow to filter in/out whole sections of the project tree (like images, code snippets, etc).

1.2 Go to item (Ctrl-F12).

If filtering the whole tree is not a best choice for you at the moment, you can just go to the content item quickly. Press Ctrl-F12 and the “Quick jump to item” dialog will let you to filter out and select an item to go to.

1.3 History – Next/Previous

Ctrl+Left cursor key and Ctrl+Right cursor key allow to navigate history of items you visited during this session.

2. Phrase Expander

Phrase expanders are a category of writing productivity tools that allow to type less. You can define your most common phrases thay you use often then define a shortcut that will paste the corresponding text into the editor.

Helpinator has a built-in phrase expander that works via Ctrl+Space key combination. To define shortcuts open phrase expander settings via Main Menu->Tools->Phrase Expander Settings

Phrase Expander settings
Press Ctrl+Space to replace the shortcut

3. Quick image finder

Large projects have a lot of images in the library and becomes excessively hard to insert images into topics using just drop-down menu. But there’s a command in the “Insert Figure” menu that acts pretty much like “Go to item” command, but instead inserts an image into the editor.

“Quick search for an image” menu
“Quick search for an image” dialog.

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