Category Descriptions

HAT-Matrix.com uses the following categories:

  • Analysis. Those HATs with built-in analytical functions let you test links, verify the HTML, and report problems and suggestions. Some HATs include a "lite" version and also sell a more robust version.
  • Content Management. Some HATs are also content management systems; some include content management features. The features in this category let you compare some high-level content management capabilities.
  • Context-sensitive Help. When you request Help while working in an application, it's typically called "context-sensitive Help". Help authors and programmers (engineers, developers) work together to create the links between the application and the Help. Most HATs include a number of features related to context-sensitive Help.
  • Customer Support. Just like any other application vendor, HAT vendors provide varying levels of customer support (where the Help authors are the customers), at varying costs. While this category isn't usually the "make or break" reason to purchase a HAT, it lets you know what the HAT vendors provide.
  • Customizing the Outputs. All HATs let you produce output "out of the box". However, all also provide the ability to customize the outputs. Some HATs provide automatic features (like adding breadcrumbs to HTML output), and others provide wizards.
  • Database and Database Management. Several HATs use databases to help manage your projects or store your content. This category includes the types of databases that may be used and any database maintenance capabilities.
  • Development Environment. Do your powers-that-be require that you use a specific application when creating Help? Or doesn't it matter? This category describes the different development environments that are available. (In some cases, the development environment doesn't matter, and users can switch from one to another. In other cases, so much time and money has been invested that it does.)
  • Development Features. This category sounds like it should be one of the most important, but in actuality, it applies to features that didn't fit anywhere else.
  • Development Features - Extras. This category is for extra features that the HAT might offer. Many of these features are unique to only one or two HATs.
  • Development Platform. All HATs run on various flavors of Windows. The matrix does indicate if the HAT can be installed on Windows Vista. (Once all HATs can be installed on Vista, this option will be removed from the matrix.) One HAT can also be installed on Mojo Pac.
  • History. Many HATs now let you track historical versions of topics and/or other objects. However, this is one set of features where the vendors really vary on their naming conventions. For example, RoboHelp calls it "version control", while Author-it calls it "history" (and has a separate feature for versioning).
  • Hyperlinks and Cross-references. Every HAT lets you create hyperlinks. Some include different features, and this category includes the unique hyperlink features of the HATs.
  • Images. All HATs let you add images to your topics. Some include a built-in graphical editor; others provide separate applications that integrate with their HAT. (Some also include video applications.) For more information on screen capture and video applications, see the individual vendor websites.
  • Import Content From... Many authors have legacy content that needs to be imported into their HAT. This category describes the various types of files that the different HATs can import. (In some cases, the HATs can reference existing files, and those features are also included in this category.)
  • Import Features. If you have legacy content to be imported, this category includes features that help make the import more successful.
  • Index. Indexing features include automatic indexing of hyperlink hotspot text and topic titles. HATs without these features require manual modification if either the hotspot text or topic title is changed.
  • Localization and Translation. Most HATs now include support for localization and translation.
  • Outputs. This category lists all the outputs we could think of and any that the vendors came up with, too.
  • Reusable Content Across Projects. One drawback for many years was that all projects were standalone and content couldn't be shared among multiple projects. This is changing as HAT vendors add more functionality, such as multiple TOC objects, conditional content, and so on. This category lists the types of content that can be shared across multiple projects. (Note that some HATs, like Author-it, use content databases, which means that all content is available to all projects stored in the database.) If you will be translating and localizing your content, you want to take advantage of maximum reusability because it will decrease costs.
  • Reusable Content Within Projects. All HATs provide for some level of reusability within a project. For example, because images are usually referenced, you can reuse any graphic that has already been used. However, some HATs let you reuse text, hyperlinks (including their hotspot text and target), and so on.
  • Single-sourcing Features. For the purpose of the matrix, "single sourcing" means producing more than one output and type of document (user's, administrator's, training, etc.), where each document type may have different content, using the same source content. This is different from re-purposing, where one deliverable is published to two or more outputs, with no change in the content that's included.
  • System Administration. Some HATs include system administration functionality, where an administrator can make changes that affect all users.
  • Table Editor. All HATs include some kind of table editor. This category lists some unique functions that may be implemented.
  • Web Standards and Accessibility. When we say "Web Standards and Accessbility", we mean those standards as they are defined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Sometimes, out-of-the-box output doesn't pass the various validators, but output that uses custom templates does. The only way to know for sure if a HAT application or its output complies with web and accessibility standards is to test them yourself.
  • Workflow. Some HATs include a way to track workflow (for example, applying a status or release state to a topic). Others integrate with an optional application to track workflow.