We’re all used to working with style sheets (or least we should be). With each new version of InDesign, there seems to be a new way to style your content. We started with paragraph and character styles, then we got nested styles, followed by object styles, and finally table styles in InDesign CS3. As you can see, nested styles is not really new but it’s something that you should be taking advantage of, so let’s get to it.
Table Styles are my favorite type of Style in Word. They allow you to quickly and consistently format the table itself (e.g. borders, shading, etc.), the content within the table (E.g. line spacing, font color, font size, etc.), and they can also can tell a table when to do these (e.g. shade every other row, bold text in the first column, etc.). The first two enable you to create really rich tables, and the last one (which I'll call Conditional Formatting for the rest of this post) enables you to easily work with those rich tables. Both are quite important.
Microsoft Word is great many kinds of documents, but it isn’t suitable for everything. If you do find yourself using Microsoft Word there are a few things you do well to look out for. Two of those things are called “Normal”, and my advice is to stay away from both of them.
Consistency of a technical documentation is what creates that subliminal sense of trust and confidence in the end-users. Someone once quipped: “it ain’t technical documentation if it ain’t boring.” This of course is not true since I always found technical documents very interesting indeed. I’m the sort of geekish person who can marvel at a well-designed user’s manual for hours and appreciate its beauty and all the effort and thinking that went into its production. I imagine how happy people would be when they use that manual and solve their problems and that, believe it or not, makes me happy as well. That’s the main reason why I’m in this business.
If you want to update the style definitions of a document with the style definitions in its attached template, you can manually select Tools + Templates and Add-ins, check the box which says 'Automatically update document styles', click OK; and then, because that setting is sticky (and most of the time, undesirable), immediately select Tools + Templates and Add-ins again, deselect the 'Automatically update document styles' box, and click OK.
The !important declaration is a very useful and powerful expression that much deserves its place in our CSS world. This article offers a guide to what the declaration is, what it does and how you should use it.
Have you ever wanted to make some text in your document look like other text in your document? Or maybe you made a picture look just right in last week's status report and really don't want to start from scratch on the picture in this week's status report. Either way, this week's tip will save you some time.
In my last series post on organizing content, I argued that traditional help authoring tools will be replaced by web platforms suitable for authoring help content. Web platforms have many advantages over help authoring tools. They provide everything from search engine optimization to interactivity and social media integration. Some of the more common HAT features, such as single sourcing and print, may not be as important in the future, since the long printed manual is losing popularity.
After several months away from Madcap Flare, coming back to work on it again, I’m reminded that one of the reasons I like this technical authoring tool is that it uses standard XHTML. So, if you’re using Flare to produce online help, you can modify your pages just like you could any Web page. So, for example, because I don’t like Flare’s default (text-only) glossary popups, I’ve replaced those with my own variety that allow text formatting and images, and can be dragged around the screen.
One of the FrameMaker features I rely on heavily for my technical documents is the use of "live" headers and footers. Once I get them set up, they will automatically pull text off of my page into the running heads so that the reader can quickly see what chapter they are in, or what section, or both. I accomplish this through the use of System Variables.
In all previous versions of Word the Document Defaults were hardcoded into Word. That is, you couldn't change them. This means that the way you would change the default properties applied to your documents would either be to change the Styles within the Template used to create the document, or to write a macro that went through all documents and updated the properties defined by the Normal Style (the paragraph Style applied to text by default). In Word 2007, you can certainly still do the former, but should know the following before you do the later: by default, the Normal Style is empty.
In Word, a style defines a set of formatting properties that are indirectly applied to characters, paragraphs, list, or tables. Instead of directly applying bold, then 14 point font, and then red to text, you can use a style to indirectly apply these three things in a single click. This is useful because you can quickly and consistently apply rich formatting, and can later change the definition of the style all the text the style is applied will change.
Two of the best known acronyms around right now are XML and XSL, often being mentioned as 'the way to go' or some abstract technique that stands for a new direction within the whole web. Rather than dealing with the languages itself in detail I’ll try to give a pragmatic approach and to show basic examples how to transform data into browser-ready HTML.