Time-Saving Features in Doc-To-Help 2009

Much attention surrounding the 2009 release has been focused on the new built-in XML-based editor and the ability to convert existing content for authoring and editing directly in Doc-To-Help's interface, and rightly so. However, there were two other very valuable features added to the software in the new release and we wanted to make sure that you knew how to use them effectively. Hopefully by doing so you'll save some time and improve the consistency of your projects.

Drag-and-Drop Linking:

A number of authors have found that, once they get their project set up, the process of creating links between topics and, in general, inserting all the topic links that are required for the documentation can be a bit of a daunting task.

Drag-and-Drop Linking allows you to grab a topic from the Topics window and drop it into your favorite editor.

Drag-and-Drop Linking in Action

Doc-To-Help creates the text for the link, the hyperlink itself, and points that hyperlink to whichever topic you dragged-and-dropped into the source file.

Links Created by Doc-To-Help

In the space of 30 seconds, I created four topic links and didn't need to input any text, highlight anything, or specify a destination. I also took my time for the purposes of demonstration in creating the above Animated GIF.

How This Benefits You:

If you find yourself with specifications that require you to create numerous topic links throughout your document (or several documents), drag-and-drop linking can save you a great deal of time and effort.

This feature also makes it fast and easy to add this functionality to your documentation, even if it is not required by the spec.

Import/Export Project Settings:

For those of you starting from scratch, this is not a feature that will pay dividends for you right away, but will most likely be very useful for you in the future. For Doc-To-Help users that used to struggle with the Organizer or were always looking for a way to clone a project that they got just right, this is the feature for you.

When you Create a New Project, the second option you have is to Select a project to copy settings from. If you select the check box next to "Copy from existing project" you can use the ellipsis button to browse to an existing project, whether it is one of Doc-To-Help's samples or that project that you got just right.

Copy Settings from an Existing Project

If you have an existing project and you want to bring some of the aspects of another project (Variables, Keywords, Groups, etc) into it, you can Import those project settings, allowing you to pick and choose what you want from the other project and what you don't. From the Doc-To-Help button, select Tools, then select Import Project Settings.

Importing Settings

After you choose what project you'd like to Import from (using the ellipsis button, just like when creating a new project), you can then select which aspects of the other project you'd like to re-use in the existing project.

Choose Which Settings to Import

Conversely, you can also Export Project Settings from one project to another.

How This Benefits You:

Since the release, a number of Doc-To-Help users (new and existing customers) and myself have found the following real-world applications for this feature:

  • Creating exact copies of child projects in Modular Help projects, thereby eliminating errors and omissions. This also makes sharing the Index and Groups faster and easier.

  • Ensuring that Team Authoring projects all have the same version, documents, variables and other settings. This is very important for the set-up and maintenance of a team project. If you don't use Team Authoring Support in Doc-To-Help Enterprise, you can still use this feature if you work on a team: The team lead can create one project that has all the necessary settings and have the rest of the team use that project as a template for future projects.

  • Copying variables from one project to another. Useful particularly when you have several variables that relate to your company in general and can be used in any project: CompanyName, CopyrightNotice, ConfidentialityNotice, etc.

  • Using the MSSandcastle sample that installs with Doc-To-Help as a template to set up your own project to document .NET assemblies and .dlls with our Sandcastle plug-in. There are a few steps in the documentation that are necessary in order to set up a project for the Sandcastle plug-in to create your reference documents for you. If you import the settings from the sample, you don't need to set anything up, which saves you those steps.


Although they're not as fancy or as flashy as the built-in XML-based editor, these features can save you a great deal time, effort, and possibly aggravation. Take a look and see for yourself. You'll probably find a time-saving application for these features that we haven't discovered yet. Feel free to share it with us if you do at feedback@componentone.com.


GrapeCity Developer Tools
comments powered by Disqus