Re: Two questions for single-sourcing practitioners

Subject: Re: Two questions for single-sourcing practitioners
From: Char James-Tanny <CharJT -at- helpstuff -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 16 Mar 2002 10:51:25 -0500

Hi, Dick :-)

I use AuthorIT for single-sourced projects. I don't have to deal with your first issue (content management tracking), as I'm typically the only one working in my database. That said, I can still try to answer your question ;-)

>>In other words, how do we track whether an element in the single-sourcing
>>database (SSDB) is still correct or needs updating?

The Workgroup and Enterprise versions of AuthorIT let library administrators assign permissions and release states to all objects. You could use a combination of these to make sure that a) folks could only change the objects you wanted them to and b) topic changes are indicated. When someone changes an object, ask them to change the release state so that changes are readily evident to anyone else looking at the database.

Since this isn't totally fail-safe, you can also take advantage of AIT's Search feature, which displays a list of all objects changed within a specified date range.

>>Do we need to link every entry in the SSDB to the corresponding
>>feature in the product development environment?

Ummm...I'm not sure I understand the question ;-), but I would say that no, you don't have to.

>>And what, then, do we do about the marketing fluff? Marketing spin
>>changes on a cycle that has nothing to do with product development
>>but instead responds to shifts in the market environment.

Let Marketing only change the marketing topics...don't give them permission to change anything objects assigned to product development. (However, you can let them view those objects if you want.)

>>How do we track the timeliness of those chunks in the SSDB?

Try to implement a system that everyone must follow. Use the Search feature to verify that folks are following it. You can also take advantage of AIT's versioning feature to retain older copies of topics.

The second question is much easier to answer :-)

>>...what is the best way to manage character set and markup issues? Clearly
>>if everything is stored as plain text, then every paragraph has to be
>>reformatted every time it is used. If it is stored as HTML, then it has to
>>be reformatted if it is going to be used in slick print collateral (because
>>commercial typography allows for many more degrees of freedom
>>than HTML).

With AIT, you work in a database. Every object includes multiple property settings (these depend on the object). Therefore, when you modify a style, you'll see tabs for General (how text with this style displays in the AIT editor), Document (how it displays in Word, for printed output), WinHelp, and HTML (which covers HTML, XHTML, HTML Help, Oracle Help, and JavaHelp).

You can assign values to the style so that it displays in 14px Arial in the AIT Editor (easier to work with), 10pt Times New Roman in print, and 12px Verdana in all online Help formats. Granted, the disadvantage is that you can't "see" what it will look like in any specific format while working in the editor, but this is far outweighed by the advantages of being able to accurately control what it *will* look like in any output. (And most tools only let you "see" one output usually have to visualize what an HTML file will look like in print, for example.)

You can further enhance your information by using variables and conditional text. Worried that a product name might change? Assign it to a variable. Need the old product name for the current output, but need the new product name for a draft? Override the variable (just don't forget to reverse the override later!).

And you can also control the graphics for any output. Include a black & white photo for print output, a 256-color bitmap for WinHelp, and a gif or jpg for HTML. Link to the graphics so that you can replace the existing graphic and know that it will be correct the next time you generate the output (which also updates the size of the graphic, so you don't have to worry about finding all instances and modifying the width and height properties).

I know that AIT uses XML, but to be honest, I'm not sure when or how. Everything is stored in the database and output as needed (and as designed).


Char James-Tanny (mailto:CharJT -at- helpstuff -dot- com)
JTF Associates, Inc. (

Consulting and Development for WinHelp, HTML Help, and Web-based Help
Adjunct Faculty, Bentley College
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Two questions for single-sourcing practitioners: From: Dick Margulis

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