Single-sourcing became popular technical communication practice in the 1990s, as technical communicators' professionalism (and salaries) increased and the costs of documentation production rose. Single sourcing reuses information from manuals in quick reference guides, training courses and marketing publications. This can mean decreased costs for writing, translation, illustration and document design, but requires specific expertise and software. Today, single-sourcing is often seen as closely related to content management.
What happens when the software firm you work for decides it will not deliver large printed manuals any more? Then the request comes to put everything online. Six months later, user profiles shift to the World Wide Web and you're asked to deliver HTML. In the future, a database of SGML information chunks may let us deliver anything, any which way. Today, we must devise a system that allows us to 'author once, publish many'. Such as system is crucial for software and hardware documentation. The method I chose was to go from FrameMaker to Acrobat .pdf files to HTML. I wrote in Adobe FrameMaker, then converted to .pdf files with Adobe Acrobat, and converted FrameMaker to HTML files with Quadralay WebWorks Publisher. But while we're waiting for the future, just learning SGML and diving deep into DTDs alone could be a mistake. SGML is a language which sets out structure, and most of us are concerned with content. Enter Information Mapping, or information types of your own devising. Identifying chunks of information such as a procedure for changing the default printer is extremely important. If we then mark each chunk for an index and record its type and title, we've also got the keywords for a future database.
The nature of content has been undergoing a profound shift in the past several years, beginning with single-sourcing efforts and continues as the need for portable content increases. The portability of content is not a manufactured need, but an extension of the trend to create, manage and deliver content in more efficient ways. In turn, this shift affects content development and delivery, particularly localization, which feels the impact of source-language changes exponentially.
Although tools like eHelp's® RoboHELP® Classic can speed up and streamline the process of creating help topics, there are still many repetitive tasks needed to build a WinHelp system that supports a large, integrated application. This article summarizes one of the techniques that Fredrickson Communications used to automate the process of developing online help topics. Once the underlying structure and macros were in place, we were able to generate hundreds of help topics at the rate 15-20 per minute.
Information development organizations are under increasing pressure to implement single-sourcing or other automated and highly structured document development processes. Forces driving this trend include translation requirements, niche marketing, the convergence of software and documentation, and shrinking cycle times and budgets. Initially, these changes threaten to remove everything that is challenging and interesting about the technical writer’s work. However, technical writers who successfully adapt to this new environment will find more opportunity than ever to use their analysis and writing skills and to develop additional negotiation and process management capabilities.
Using a modular process has proven highly effective in developing both on-line and printed documentation. This paper identifies module types and structures, discusses technical, psychological, and management hurdles, and demonstrates how this process can improve consistency and quality. In addition it discusses tools and resources, preliminary planning, preparation of personnel, and (briefly) tracking results.
During March and April 2003, Cherryleaf carried out an online survey into the current trends in technical communication. One of the questions we asked was: Do the people directly involved with user assistance development at your organization use a single sourcing authoring solution? Our findings are summarised in the article
There is no single best authoring environment provided by a content management system. Instead, the authoring tools must be matched to the job at hand to ensure they are easy and efficient to use.
This paper will describe the products resulting from the Brown and Williamson document collection - two Internet products, one hardcover book, a series of journal articles, and one compact disc (CD) - and comment on associated issues in electronic publications.
CMSWatch.com provides information, trends, opinion, and analysis about Web Content Management (WCM) solutions. The site also includes information and commentary about related technologies, such as XML, digital asset management, and content syndication.
Streamline your review process with the robust collaboration tool set in Adobe® InCopy™ 2.0. With InCopy, you can track changed text, and add notes and comments without disturbing line breaks. Later, others on the team can easily identify who.
Selecting the right content management system (CMS) can be challenging. Too often, CMS shoppers skip critical steps in a mad rush to get their projects started. They jump into the purchasing cycle without having analyzed organizational needs nor having performed a content audit. Often, they mistakenly rely on marketing materials and analyst reports to help them decide which system to purchase. In this quick-read article, Ann Rockley and Steve Manning of The Rockley Group explore why it's important to manage components (i.e., single topics, concepts or assets) of your documentation, rather than just managing whole documents, in order to create greater consistency and accuracy, and reduce creation, delivery, and translation costs.
InDesign has always supported the use of layers, but layers don’t always cut it when working with text. You can put a text frame on a layer and turn that layer on and off as needed, but it’s an all or nothing approach. What if you want to show and hide individual words or paragraphs and have the text automatically rewrap when you show or hide those words? With conditional text, it’s a breeze.
Content management is becoming a critical component of single sourcing. It provides a method for managing our single source materials and ensuring that information can be easily retrieved for reuse. This session explains what a content management system will do for you and how to use it effectively.
Identifies and discusses the effects of single sourcing on the writing process. Provides suggestions for incorporating the teaching of single sourcing into technical communication courses
The Content Wrangler contains a variety of resources and information for technical communicators interested in single-sourcing, content management, structured authoring, XML and more. Registered users gain access to "members only" content, user profiles, and special offers from vendors, publishers and trade associations.
While shared knowledge increases exponentially, our intellectual capacity remains essentially the same. Meta-knowledge (external intelligence) will be the tool of the highly specialized professionals in the future. The most educated among will say 'I don't know; but I know how to know.'
Single sourcing, XML, and other forms of multimedia have changed technical communicators' work processes and on-the-job duties. Beyond the requirements for traditional skills in writing, editing, and designing, technical communicators must now play enhanced roles within professional environments including organizing, creating, and managing information. To help simplify the complex tasks of creating multimedia documents, in this article we examine the impact that new technologies have had on the technical communication profession. Referring to a wide variety of sources about the fundamental changes to our profession, we synthesize information regarding managing multimedia documents. Although in this article we focus on object management, with an emphasis on the tasks, skills, and tools required of authors of such documents, in future articles we will address object creation and object presentation.
Tandem Computers Incorporated developed a new electronic information delivery system and changed internal publishing processes to achieve greater eficiency and customer satisfaction. We were able to move over 1,000 manuals and 11,000 pieces of support documentation along with education material from two different CD-ROM delivery products to one corporate viewer that supports publishing on both CD-ROM and the World Wide Web. The project included creating a new viewer using industry-standard components, creating new publishing tools, and establishing new corporate relationships and processes.
An Information Model provides the framework for organizing your content so that it can be delivered and reused in a variety of innovative ways. Once you have created an Information Model for your content repository, you will be able to label information in ways that will enhance search and retrieval, making it possible for authors and users to find the information resources they need quickly and easily.
Until recently, single sourcing has been limited to the process of putting identical information into multiple information products. However, the results of a singlesourced approach need not be identical. You can customize the outputs to contain only the information that is appropriate for the specific situation. This presentation provides a high-level overview to the advantages of single sourcing and how to implement and maintain such a solution.