[CASE] Radiant Technologies has switched from RoboHelp to Dr.Explain, which sped up project development and maintenance by at least 100%
Joe Evans and Scott Chapman from Radiant Technologies have shared with us a thrilling story about migrating their end user documentation writing process to Dr.Explain and how that had affected their company’s effectiveness.
DE: What does your company develop and produce?
Radiant Technologies, Inc. (www.ferrodevices.com) is a small research and development firm located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The company is an industry leader in fabrication and characterization of nonlinear ferroelectric materials and devices made of them. The materials provide marketable piezoelectric, pyroelectric, and hysteretic properties.
Radiant’s larger industry is the production of the Precision line of nonlinear materials analyzers, along with a host of accessories that allow characterization from 1 mV to 10 kV, from 3 K to 2000 K, and from 40 µs to 30 s. Radiant’s Precision tester series and accessories are sold worldwide, and Radiant is known for its quick and complete regard for customer support.
DE: Please tell us about your team.
Joe T. Evans, Jr. is the company owner, president, and chief researcher. He is the company’s theorist and the prime motivator behind new research, technologies, and products. It is his mission to broaden the community’s understanding and application of nonlinear materials.
Scott P. Chapman is a digital engineer. His primary mission is the design and development of the Vision program.
Vision (http://www.ferrodevices.com/1/297/software.asp) is the primary control program for the Precision Test Systems. It serves as a virtual representation of the tester. But unlike LabVIEW, it is much more than a virtual instrument. It is a virtual research environment that allows complete experiments to be designed and executed, with data captured, archived, and analyzed.
Vision is a framework that provides services to any number of semi-independent agents known as Tasks. Tasks are complete configurable and executable units that perform the work in Vision. Tasks range from very simple ones (pause program execution) to very elaborate ones (perform a complete thermal characterization of a material sample). The researcher can arrange Tasks in any sequence in a simple programming environment, including looping, if-then, and early termination structures, to create any custom experiment. Vision is distributed freely to Precision tester users and to any other interested parties. It can be downloaded and installed on any number of host computers without licensing.
DE: What does the Vision user documentation consist of?
Among Scott’s other responsibilities are customer support, installation and training, and complete documentation of the program. Documentation includes an overall presentation of the Vision program and individual, Tasks-specific, projects for every Task. In most cases this is the only complete documentation. As a small company, Radiant Technologies often pushes its resources far beyond their normal lifespan.
DE: Which tools did you use to create manuals for your software in the past, and what problems did you face?
For nearly twenty years, the Vision program’s help pages had been generated by an early version of RoboHelp. The deficiencies of the old program had been apparent for many years. Images were difficult to work with, and HTML translation from the UI was error-prone. Images, in particular, could not be placed directly into the document, but had to be incorporated from a GIF or JPEG file. This meant that all images had to be handled outside of the program. As a result, maintenance of the documentation tended to lag. Recent upgrades to our development hosts and operating systems have led us to finally put RoboHelp aside.
DE: Why did you choose Dr.Explain?
As a small company, Radiant is concerned with cost vs. capability in purchasing tools. In evaluating and comparing modern alternatives to generate CHM files, Dr. Explain presented excellent credentials. It combined a reasonable cost with a full suite of features.
In comparison with competitors, Dr. Explain is not the least expensive tool, but presents the best capability for the cost. User reviews played an important role in the comparison. Dr. Explain reviews are excellent.
DE: Did Dr.Explain affect your productivity and effectiveness?
As a daily user, Scott finds the greatest benefit in the direct capture of active windows as images. This speeds up project development and maintenance by at least 100%. The ability to import existing CHM files into new projects gives a solid basis from which to maintain projects.
For Scott, Dr. Explain has made working with help pages a pleasure where it had been a chore.
CHM files are included into the program setup package.