Using forms instead of templates

Subject: Using forms instead of templates
From: techwriter -at- supalife -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 4 Dec 2001 10:45:53 +0000

I have been asked to 'sort out all the documentation issues' at a company that
has never had a tech writer or an info manager before.
One of the issues I've been asked to address is the look and feel of our
technical documentation (specs etc) and our user documentation (mostly
straightforward how-tos for in-house end-users).

At the minute docs are written by developers and/or project managers and it
was suggested to me that all I need do is create some templates (different
versions of Word) for them to use. But I've seen the results of previous
efforts at standardisation using templates and am not keen on this as it is
still too easy for them to get it wrong (and worse-wrong because formatting
has to be undone before it can be done properly).

I checked the list archives and recently a couple of people suggested using
forms to get the info from these people, which seems to me like a fantastic
idea. For a number of reasons I've had to rule out HTML forms so am looking
now at Word ones (the only tool available company-wide).

But of course I have a question...

If I used Word forms (with formatting built in) how could I build in some
flexibility? I'm thinking for example of dealing with a different number of
steps or sections. The forms will have to be protected (or the point is
missed!) but I don't want everything to end up back at me for editing...

Have any of you managed this or something similar? Have I missed something
I'd be v grateful for any input -- please copy me in on any replies, I'm a

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