Falling in love with VoodooPad again

A few years ago I used “VoodooPad Lite”:http://www.flyingmeat.com/voodoopad/ extensively. Every note, to-do list, and feature description went into it. At some point I migrated away from VoodooPad to a combination of text files and “Ta-da list”:http://www.tadalist.com/, perhaps fearing I would have too much data in a weird format that would be difficult to get at later.

But I was always on the lookout for a problem that would best be solved with VoodooPad again. With our localized help files for “Bookshelf 4.1”:http://www.vitalsource.com/, I tried for most of a day to use VoodooPad to manage the help. I even experimented with Gus’s dead “project for remote wiki editing”:http://www.flyingmeat.com/fs/flystashweb.cgi?space=3ec82d22-c72a-01d9-1639-c0cbe4c4c32b, thinking I would write my own web-based help-specific wiki system and plug “Boomerang”:http://www.flyingmeat.com/fs/flystashweb.cgi/348c223e-0512-01da-1c41-c0cbe4c4fc75 into it. In the end it was too difficult to force the existing static help files into VoodooPad.

Fast-forward to a few nights ago. “Wii Transfer”:http://www.riverfold.com/software/wiitransfer/ 1.5 has no Apple Help at all, and it needs some. A perfect opportunity for VoodooPad, and I’m happy to report that the solution works beautifully. I knew I could make it work because clearly VoodooPad’s own help files are managed with VoodooPad. After a bit of experimentation I bought a new VoodooPad license and all was well in the world.

Here’s how it works:

  • I manage the help content in VoodooPad, creating pages for different help sections and generally just typing away and getting stuff done.

  • The HTML export template lives inside the VoodooPad document itself, so everything is in one place.

  • Also inside the VoodooPad document is a post-processing script (written in Ruby) that looks for a comment in index.html and inserts the appropriate AppleTitle and AppleIcon meta tags that Apple Help needs to get its work done.

The only part I haven’t finished yet is that the script should also send the files off to Help Indexer to update the search index. I coded that part but it doesn’t work yet — there is something different about how VoodooPad executes these scripts that prevents other applications from launching. (Maybe. I’ll sort it out eventually.)

You can “watch a screencast of the process here”:http://www.manton.org/screencasts/2007/voodoopad.mov. I add a new page, enter some filler text, export the VoodooPad document, then re-run the Xcode project and view the changes in Apple Help. Fun!