RE: Configurable On-Line Documentaton: Tools and Technologies

Subject: RE: Configurable On-Line Documentaton: Tools and Technologies
From: "Cliver, Barry" <CliverBarry -at- PRAIntl -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 3 Mar 2005 08:04:43 -0500

>>Does anyone on the list know of bibliographic and/or consulting
resources that exist about authoring configurable on-line help? I am
documenting a leading-edge application with several licenseable modules
and numerous configuration options. A client licenses different modules
and configures different options based on their unique business
requirements. The on-line help must automatically reflect the modules
and options in use by a given client. It must also automatically
configure itself to present particular levels of help based on user
role. In addition to this automatic configurability, it must be possible
to output documentation for a given client-configuration to turn into
training materials suited to that client.>>

Hi Tony,

I was able to provide dynamic online help using FrameMaker and
Quadralay's Webworks Publisher. It was dynamic in the sense that the
client received online help for each module installed. And it was
merged, so the user did not have to pick through the system to find help
for a given module. We had over 8,000 possible combinations of modules,
so attempting online help for each combination was impossible. Instead,
I simply 'stacked' the online help as each module was installed. If they
didn't install a module, then they didn't get the help. I used an ANT
task in an XML file to dynamically merge the online help, and users
received a single TOC, search, and index. Also, Quadralay does not
support dynamic merging out-of-the-box, so be prepared for the
tinker-test-fix cycle. Quadralay can provide consulting services. I did
not use them.

Using this technique requires one module with one online help system.
The modules and the online help must use a consistent architecture, and
all modules must install to the same path on the server. The dynamic
merging technique also requires a "base" online help system that is
always present and always installed before other online help systems. I
don't know if your environment supports these prerequisites. You'll
probably need some development support, as well, probably a few staff
days. I'm sure this can be accomplished using tools other than

This does not solve your requirement for generating training materials,
nor does it allows end users the ability to configure the help. Once
installed, it's static.



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