Microsoft’s Visual SourceSafe was not created with technical communicators in mind. It was created for engineers writing software source code. But it is successfully used by technical writers in offices around the world to control documentation.
Creating an XML-based Content Management System to single-source technical publications is as simple as 1 - 2 - 3. OK, maybe it isn't quite that easy, but this article discusses how it can be done.
In this column, I’ll review what user assistance architects mean by reuse and what its benefits can be. I’ll then describe some different scenarios for reuse and offer guidelines that user assistance architects and information developers can follow. My examples show how DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture) can be an effective reuse framework. But the principles I discuss go beyond DITA, and you can apply them to any structured information framework or toolset.
The topic of technical publishing is relatively new to the world of Eclipse. One can make the argument that technical publishing is just another collaborative development process involving several people with different backgrounds and skills. This article will show that the Eclipse platform is a viable platform for technical publishing by discussing how to write documents such as an article or a book within Eclipse. In fact, this article was written using Eclipse.
We have two distinct sets of users; internal product consultants and end users. Prior to using RoboHelp Server we had little way of identifying who was looking at our documentation, when they were looking at it, or how often. That has now changed.
In July, in a sharp break from tradition, the Army began encouraging its personnel — from the privates to the generals — to go online and collaboratively rewrite seven of the field manuals that give instructions on all aspects of Army life. The program uses the same software behind the online encyclopedia Wikipedia and could potentially lead to hundreds of Army guides being “wikified.” The goal, say the officers behind the effort, is to tap more experience and advice from battle-tested soldiers rather than relying on the specialists within the Army’s array of colleges and research centers who have traditionally written the manuals.
Charles Cantrell, an Information Engineer, describes Ontario Systems' process for delivering dynamically assembled and populated documentation for Artiva, its 'highly customizable' accounts receivable management application.
The way in which we compute has been changing over the last three or four years. In fact, I think I can safely say that what many people are doing now isn’t computing in the traditional sense of the word. And this move is going to have an effect on technical communication.
This chapter explores the idea that a small group of people who have a sense of belonging in an online community may provide content much like a technical writer does. Regardless of their background, education, or training, more people are becoming providers of technical information on the web.
Software products have found ways to share content and reuse content to deliver more value with limited resources. For example, fantasy football web sites share player news, injury reports, and game statistics. Security products often reuse security announcements and warnings from trusted sources, and present them as rebranded content. We are also seeing software vendors using Twitter and RSS feeds to distribute information and announcements. The next step is when these information feeds are integrated into the product user interface itself, making it the one stop resource for all the information needs of its users. No more need to use google when your product itself delivers the answers to all your questions from the sources you trust.
Doc-To-Help gives Help authors complete control over the look, feel, and content of a project's printed manual, Windows Help system, HTML files, and HTML Help system. Maintaining different content is controlled using Doc-To-Help's conditional text feature, which allows authors to mark content for print-only, online-only, WinHelp-only, and so on. In this article we discuss how you control the appearance of the printed manuals and Help using Word templates, and HTML output using cascading style.
If you need the collaborative aspects of a Wiki combined with DITA's modular topics and publishing capabilities, then DAISY might just be the system you need--and it's free. DAISY provides WYSIWYG editing for Wiki pages that can be combined to publish books, either in a PDF or as a single HTML page.
The reasons for the White House's decision to run its Web site, whitehouse.gov, on the open source content management system Drupal are being discussed on various Web sites. Alongside Drupal's functionality, flexibility and openness, some are suggesting that Drupal's documentation was also a key factor for deciding to use this system.
Collaboration happens when multiple people work simultaneously towards a common goal. Collaboration software are tools which try to make working together easier and more productive. There are hundreds of methodologies and approaches out there to collaboration. We want to bring the focus on one particular dimension: open vs. structured collaboration.
The authors have come up with eight guidelines and three concrete suggestions on best practices for editing modular documentation, including ensuring that all topics are standalone, that titles are unique and descriptive, and more.
When technical communicators have a strong personal attachment to the publication they are preparing, this attachment may interfere with the design and testing of the publication itself. Documents developed by solo authors tend to be late, buggy, and exceedingly difficult for others to maintain. 'Ego-less' methods---collaborative and structured---break the proprietary connection between the writer and the book; in so doing they permit the most powerful tools of engineering and testing to be used. But they also reduce the satisfactions of the communicator's job.
Recently I’ve been working on a simple calendar project that uses a wiki for documentation. Although I’ve heard a lot about using wikis for documentation, and have even used them in the past, I ran into a few surprises this time.
The Firefox Support Knowledge Base is a collaborative work of dozens of contributors, the Support Forum is bustling with people answering questions, and Live Chat is manned by dedicated team of community members.
As wikis mature, we’re using them for more complex business cases such as technical documentation, business analysis and project management. It’s becoming more and more interesting, if not essential, for wikis to support the import and export of content to and from other formats. Most wikis allow you to convert their pages at least to PDF and HTML. But what of other formats, and what about tools for getting content into wikis as well as out of them?
Some writers truly hate Adobe Acrobat and any tool that can do the job better is worth a shot, particularly if it’s open source and easily navigated. Flossmanuals.net introduces FLOSS which does a lot of the single desktop Acrobat Pro’s job - collaboratively and open source.
When companies decide whether or not to adopt a CMS or continue using a HAT, there are many factors to consider. Perlin outlines elements of both CMSs and HATs that could help you determine which is best for your organization.
Document control is a major component of any quality system. To implement a document control system, first establish Policies/procedures for generating, approving, issuing, and revising documents. The next step is to design and implement forms and a filing system/data base for managing quality documents. Teamwork and established guidelines can help ease the complexities of implementing a document control system.
If we can solicit user participation in a Web 2.0 knowledge community (a volunter wiki documentation, for example), we might have a powerful means for creating high quality content. But how should this process work?
To avoid serious consequences to your organization and barriers to your users’ performance, it may be time to purge segments of your policies and procedures content.