I’m going to be a little different on this posting and talk about an actual pay-product that is totally worth your while to look at. The product I’m talking about is called DocumentX 2010 and it’s by a company called Innovasys.
I’ve been dealing with Innovasys for a long time now. Back when I first started developing CodeBreeze, I was on the hunt for a good help authoring system in order write a quality help system for my own applications and I came across the original Document X. First, let me tell you what Document X does. Put simply, it lets you develop MSDN-style documentation for your APIs and object models. It comes with its own full-feature IDE, but also fully integrates with Visual Studio and also imports <summary>-style documentation directly from your code. Document X has the concept of content files that let you define all the documentation for a specific assembly, then by creating a project file, you can important as many content files as you want. The end-result is a help file that can incorporate multiple assemblies. Innovasys also makes a sister product called Help Studio, which is used to author complete help systems for your applications. With Help Studio you can create any number of topics, glossaries, and custom tables-of-content. Into a Help Studio project, you can important a Document X project, giving you a complete single help file for your application that contains all your user-help, the way you designed it, as well as the object-model documentation in MSDN format.
The reason I felt it important to share my experience with you is because it was a unique one. Using the Document X product, along with its sister application, Help Studio, I was inspired to take certain approaches during the design and development of CodeBreeze. As I used the product suite, I noticed that every part of the application can be customized, including the templates for the help being generated. The usage of context menus, short-cuts, tabbed-MDI, and other UX details was extensive and I became very impressed with the way the suite was built. The guys at Innovasys seem to go out of their way to provide the best and most intuitive user experience possible. Normally, the task of creating documentation can be quite tedious, but the best compliment I can give Innovasys is that it’s a task that I actually enjoy.
The more I used the Document X and Help Studio product suite, the more I found myself changing things in CodeBreeze to provide a better and better user experience. It became quite frustrating, but in a good way . A couple of years later, at the Los Angeles PDC, I got the opportunity to meet the Innovasys team after exchanging emails when them for a while and they were as pleasant I person as they were on-line.
Document X is on its 2010 release and HelpStudio is about to be released as the 2011 version, both are written in WPF, and based on all the conversations I’ve had with Innovasys, the applications have a solid architecture and do their predecessors proud in all the usual attention to detail.
I’ve had the opportunity to dialog quite a bit with Innovasys and it’s no surprise their products are built so well. It such a treat getting into real geeky conversations with these guys. Recently, our conversations have been about WPF, MVVM, abstractions, templates, and other great technologies used in the latest versions of their products. The new versions of Document X and Help Studio are built entirely in WPF and I gotta say that once again, their proving an inspiration in the next version of CodeBreeze, to be released sometime next year.
Be sure to check out their apps at www.innovasys.com, where you can download a free trial for all their products.
Keep up the great work guys.
Until next time…