RoboHelp Snippets: Benefits and Limitations

snipping thread

Have you ever used RoboHelp (or other) snippets?

I have experience with RoboHelp, so I’ll stick to that, though I know that other help authoring tools have similar features. I think snippets are great, but (in RoboHelp, at least) they do have their limitations.

What’s a snippet?

A snippet is a bit of text with formatting, or even an image, that you put aside to use again. (Microsoft Word has something similar, called the Scrapbook.)

Let’s say you frequently give out your company’s contact info, and you always write it the same way, with the same bits in bold, and the same phrasing:

Want to talk to us? Call TODAY at: blah blah blah blah!

Rather than write that same thing a dozen times (probably introducing some inconsistency along the way), you can save it as a snippet. Then when you want to add that text to a topic, you just drag and drop it. And when you change the snippet, all instances of that text change throughout your help.

There are plenty of resources out there to tell you the steps, but I’ll just mention how I use snippets, and the one major limitation I’ve found while using them.

How I use snippets

I use snippets just about any time I think I’ll repeat myself, but I use them most often for procedural steps.

For example, let’s say that steps one and two for many procedures say:

  1. Double-click the app icon.
  2. Click the Home button.

From there, the procedures depart. So I write and format steps one and two just the way I want them, then save them as a single snippet. Whenever I need those steps in a topic, I drag and drop them from my snippets to the topic.

Then I know three things:

  1. Each time those steps are in the help, they’re exactly the same (saving on translation cost as well as eliminating the possibility for inconsistency of terms).
  2. If I want to change one of the steps, I can change the snippet, and all the steps that use the snippet will automatically and immediately update.
  3. I can drag the snippet to my Resource Manager, and use it in other RoboHelp projects where it would come in handy. If I didn’t use a resource manager, I could still import the snippet from any project.

By the way, I don’t usually use snippets for contact info (despite my example at the beginning of this post), because I prefer to have a single “contact’ topic that I link to from other places.

But snippets aren’t everything I’d want them to be.

The limitations

One limitation of snippets is that they can be hard to keep track of, or even to remember whether a certain one exists. As far as I know, there’s no good method for organizing them within the Snippets pod. They all just sort of sit there.

But the limitation that bothers me the most is that snippets must always be on a separate line from other items in a topic. I can’t introduce a snippet into a line of text.

Let’s say that I frequently write the following fruity phrase at the end, or in the middle, of a sentence:  including five lemons and a kiwi.

I’d like to add that phrase to end of a sentence, but if it’s a snippet, I can’t. I have to add the snippet on its own line, which ruins what I’m trying to do.

But, limitations aside, I find snippets to be helpful to my work, and I hope they get even easier to use in future releases.

Do you use snippets? Do you have advice, suggestions, or questions about them?

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14 Responses to “RoboHelp Snippets: Benefits and Limitations”

  1. Peter Grainge
    February 14, 2012 at 3:01 am #

    You can create categories for Snippets and that can help with the organisation.

    For in sentence snippets you can use User Defined Variables. I agree it’s a bit mixed but it works.

    I would also like to see editable Snippets so that in a particular instance of say six steps, you can add an additional step without affecting the other Snippets. The Used In tab for the snippet would show the topics with an asterisk or suchlike to show it has been edited.

  2. Ankur Jain
    February 14, 2012 at 5:18 am #

    Robert,

    RoboHelp 9 introduced the concept of ‘category’ for Snippets. You can now organize your snippets in Categories.

  3. Hugo
    February 14, 2012 at 9:31 am #

    I aggree that there’s no real way to organize snippets conveniently. Even with categories, I find myself searching through the dozens of snippets I have in a project, and it really is hard to keep track of them.

    Like Peter Grainge, I find that variables do the job well for in-sentence snippets.

    The one thing I would love to do with snippets is, again like Peter, to be able to have snippets in which I could identify some parts that would be editable in each instance of the snippet. That for me is the biggest drawback.

  4. David
    February 14, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

    Snippets are quite useful aren’t they? Even with the limitations you mention. I have also used them for the first line or two of instructions plus lots of other purposes. I like the fact that each snippet in RH is held in its own file on the hard disk, so copying them from one project to another is easy. Like Peter and Hugo I also use variables as inline snippets. Unfortunately variables are all held in one XML file rather than individual files, so copying them is not so easy.

  5. admin-Robert
    February 14, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

    Thanks for all the comments. Amazingly (to me), though I’ve used variables for product names and other variable things, it never occurred to me to use them as a sort of inline snippet.

    That’s a great idea.

    And editable snippets would definitely be helpful.

    As far as categories, I agree that they make it less difficult to organize the snippets. I haven’t played with them enough, so maybe this post was a little uninformed.

  6. Colum McAndrew
    February 20, 2012 at 8:49 am #

    Hi Robert. Great post. If your users want an explanation of when to use variabels or snippets, check out this post:

    http://www.cmcandrew.com/robocolumn/archives/2683

  7. Colin Spowart
    September 11, 2012 at 7:01 pm #

    This is great and have started to use snippets in Rh8. I have the situation of inside the snippet it has a hyperlink to another place in the containing HTML webpage it is included in so the HREF is to #JumpSpot bookmark.

    In the rendered webpage (in the browser) When I click on the hyperlink so that it will jump to that bookmark on the webpage but it cannot find the target of the link.

    I see it wants to go to the root of the project (in the status bar of my browser when hover over the hyperlink).

    Question:- How do I create a “local” hyperlink after inserted snippet into the html page?

    Really hope this makes sense 🙂

  8. admin-Robert
    September 11, 2012 at 10:06 pm #

    Colin, let me see if I understand you:

    You created a snippet with a link to a bookmark.

    You then place the snippet on the page that contains the bookmark, but it doesn’t work.

    If that’s the case, then I’m not seeing what you’re seeing. When I try that, it seems to work just fine.

    If you’re trying to link to a bookmark on another page, then that’s different. But if the page contains the bookmark and the snippet, then I don’t know what’s wrong.

    Can you check the html of the snippet to see what it says?

  9. colin spowart
    September 11, 2012 at 10:14 pm #

    Hello Robert – I posted a more full explaination up on the adobe help forums:

    http://forums.adobe.com/thread/1064516

    I should have explained I am using the dropdown twistie javascript from van weelden as the book mark is in the dropdown text.

    I tried to give all the information but in a flurry it was not evident by my original post – sorry.

    thanks
    colin

  10. Hemal Patel
    June 3, 2013 at 9:21 am #

    Hello Peter,

    1. I use UDV for product names, copyright year, or any such attribute that has a singular value. I would appreciate if you can elaborate a bit more on “For in sentence snippets you can use User Defined Variables. I agree it’s a bit mixed but it works.” Maybe, an example shall be a good help.

    2. Is there a chance I can drag a snippet within a snippet?

    • Peter Grainge
      June 3, 2013 at 1:08 pm #

      @ Hemal It’s quite simple. You want a snippet in a sentence but as you know that’s not possible. Maybe you have a snippet that reads

      Click here to download a demo.

      Sometimes you might want that to follow some other text rather than be a paragraph. For example…

      This is a complex area, click here to download a demo.

      Here “click here to download a demo” would be a variable.

      Snippets within snippets are not possible. Submit a feature request to Adobe.

      • Hemal Patel
        June 4, 2013 at 9:36 am #

        Right. Thanks, Peter. This certainly helps.

      • Hemal Patel
        June 4, 2013 at 9:41 am #

        Thanks a ton, Peter. This certainly helps.

  11. Sinjini Sen
    July 12, 2016 at 2:49 am #

    How can we index a keyword within a snippet?

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