Customer and Employee Education

ScreenSteps vs. MadCap Flare or RoboHelp

Nov 12, 2014 2:34:00 PM  |  Jonathan DeVore

We often get questions about using ScreenSteps vs. MadCap Flare or RoboHelp.

I'm not going to go into a feature by feature comparison - both RoboHelp and MadCap Flare are very capable products and if you start listing all of the features, both will have a much longer list than ScreenSteps.

The main difference between ScreenSteps and these other authoring tools is philosophy.

Both Flare and RoboHep are built around the the idea of "documentation projects." A team or author using one of these products will go through everything you would do with a traditional project:

  • You need to plan your requirements
  • You need to gather data from your Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)
  • Your authors get to work writing the documentation
  • The documentation passes through a review phase
  • The documentation is revised
  • Once the documentation is finished is published to a format: HTML, PDF, Word, ePub, etc.

If any changes need to be made you have to go through the whole process again. These products assume a project timeline and a "final deliverable."

ScreenSteps approaches things very differently. Instead of being focused around completing a project, ScreenSteps is focused on enabling a process.

Over the last several years, the speed at which software products change has accelerated dramatically. Traditionally software lived on a 12-24 month release cycles. Now release cycles are measured in hours or days.

ScreenSteps was designed from the ground up to support this new reality. With ScreenSteps, you don't complete big projects and publish them. Instead, as you create your documentation, it is automatically published to either a ScreenSteps hosted help site or a third party service such as Zendesk.

When updates need to be made, you only update what is needed. There is no need to do a full export again since the content is instantly updated as you check it in.

When you need to add an article, you simply add it. No need to export your entire project again and upload a bunch of files.

Process, not projects

ScreenSteps is designed to let you iterate over your documentation, creating and updating it as you need it. This lets modern businesses be more responsive to their customers' needs.

An example might help. Let's look at two scenarios, creating a new article or updating an existing one.

Creating a new article

Let's say a new feature gets released in your software and you need to document it. It is just a small feature so you only need to write a quick article.

With ScreenSteps you would:

  1. Create a new article
  2. Add some images and text
  3. Check it in and pubish it

You wouldn't upload your entire documentation site. You wouldn't have to redo any navigation. The article would just appear on your site and your table of contents would automatically be updated.

With Flare or RoboHelp you would:

  1. Open your project
  2. Create a new topic
  3. Author the topic
  4. Add the topic to your TOC
  5. Export your project
  6. Upload it to your server via FTP

Flare and RoboHelp simply aren't designed for quickly creating a new article and getting it in the hands of your customer.

Updating an article

Now say we need to update that article. Maybe a screenshot needs to be changed or we found a typo.

In ScreenSteps:

  1. Check the article out
  2. Fix the article (you can even swap the image out inline)
  3. Check it in

That's it.

In these other applications you get to do a full documentation export again.

Delivering what your customers want and need

We also built ScreenSteps with a focus on what customers want and need to be successful. When I say customers I'm not talking about the customers who purchase and use ScreenSteps. I'm talking about the customers of ScreenSteps customers. The people who are going to need to read and use the documentation that is created by ScreenSteps.

We constantly ask, what would be best for those customers. What would make it easier for them to use the documentation successfully.

One of the big factors are screenshots. Screenshots make it easier for customers to understand what to do. But with traditional authoring tools, screenshots are a pain to add and keep up to date.

ScreenSteps makes it as simple as possible to add a lot of screenshots to your documentation and then replace and update them as needed. This means you use more visuals in your documentation and your customers get better results out of your documentation.

A good way to understand how differently we think about screenshots is to look at the help pages for ScreenSteps, Flare and RoboHelp.

Ask yourself, which version would your customers prefer?

And as far as SEO - look at the URLs for those three articles:

Training time and cost

Our customers who come over from Flare or RoboHelp typically tell us that they felt like they needed a PhD to use the other products. Typically, someone can be up and running with ScreenSteps, and have a published help site with one or two articles in under an hour.

We offer customized training sessions to our customers. We have never had a customer that has needed more than an hour of training and most of that time is spent discussing workflow strategies for their particular team.

As far as cost, they aren't even in the same realm.

Flare isn't just a single product. It is a suite of products. If you just purchase Flare you don't get screen recording or screen capture. You need to purchase additional add-ons. You can see the full list of Flare add-ons here.

To get the full suite you are looking at $108/user/month (billed annually) or $1,699 for a perpetual license. View current pricing here.

RoboHelp costs $999 per user. You can find pricing information by digging through this page.

You can see current ScreenSteps pricing here. You'll notice that it is much more affordable and it includes not only the authoring and screen capture tools, but a fully brandable site for publishing your documentation as well.

Summary

There are certain situations where something like MadCap or RoboHelp will be a much better option than ScreenSteps. If you work in a highly regulated environment and you are looking for enterprise, really complex, but powerful software and you mostly deal with documentation projects then one of these products might be a good fit for you.

Or if you need complete control over your exported HTML, PDF or Word content then these products can be a good fit.

But by choosing a more complex solution you are going to sacrifice speed and responsiveness. Your documentation is going to take a lot more time to write and keep up to date.

If it is more important that you are responsive to your customer's needs and that you be able to keep up with your product's release cycle then you should check out ScreenSteps. It doesn't have all of the features of RoboHelp or Flare, but it has one feature that really matters: It will help you write better help documentation in less time and keep it up to date.

PS - If you are still thinking that Flare or RoboHelp would be a good fit for your needs, here is a feature comparison of Flare vs. RoboHelp published by Flare (so it's obviously heavily biased).

If all of those features get you really excited, then checkout Flare or RoboHelp. If they make your head spin then checkout ScreenSteps.

 

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