Tactic request: dependent numbering strategies?

Subject: Tactic request: dependent numbering strategies?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 18 Dec 2002 11:47:53 -0500

Shauna Iannone reports: <<In test documents, and occasionally others, I've
found a need to have multiple items in a section share a single number, with
one set dependent on the other. For example, a specific test case in a test
plan is numbered for reference by other docs (e.g. "1.5.3"); the boilerplate
specific to the test case, the table containing the action steps and
pass/fail signoffs for that test case, and sometimes optional reference
figures and risk assessment sections are all numbered to match, since they
aren't always together spatially. As the doc is expanded during its
development, the numbering will be shuffled several times. I have
autonumbering covering one piece, and I want the dependent, matching numbers
to auto-update with them.>>

I imagine you could trick up something using reference fields, but that's
beyond my expertise. Hopefully someone on techwr-l can provide details for
automating this approach.

My more Luddite approach would be to ditch autonumbering and come up with a
manual numbering system that's independent of the chapter and section
numbering in your documents. For example, call your first two examples "Test
case 1" and "Test case 2", no matter what chapters they appear in, and don't
worry about the numbering matching the section at this point. Track these
numbers in a separate file to make sure you don't assign the same number
twice. When the major reshuffling of the document is complete, simply do a
search and replace: "Test case 1" becomes "Test case 1.5.3" if that's where
it eventually ends up, and so on. I use this approach effectively for
assigning help topic IDs, so I'll always know which section of the software
is associated with which range of IDs.

The most obvious problem with this approach is that if you forget to do that
final search and replace, the document goes out with the test cases numbered
out of sequence. For example, what you originally called "Test case 17" may
now appear in chapter 2.5.3 while "Test case 2" appears in chapter 17.5.3,
well after chapter 2. Including cross-references to headings or providing a
table of test cases makes it easy to look up the page numbers for these test
cases. So long as you've kept the numbers clear and distinct, you won't have
any problem with overlapping numbers, and readers will still be able to
refer to the correct test cases. That's the most important thing anyway,
isn't it?

--Geoff Hart, geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada
580 boul. St-Jean
Pointe-Claire, Que., H9R 3J9 Canada

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