Checking for updated documentation?

Subject: Checking for updated documentation?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, William Turner <wturner -at- force10networks -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 25 Aug 2007 06:45:48 -0400

William Turner wondered: <<When a user opens our documentation CD, I
want to that action to: 1. Invoke a check of our website for updated
documentation 2. Alert the user if any updates are available. How can
that or some similar result be accomplished?>>

This would take some programming, and your pet programmers will have
to tell you how they would do this. But the easiest and most
effective way is to build it into the software update process already
built into the software. Documentation is a software component, and
should thus be included in the update process. And this ensures that
the documentation and software will always be in synch.

If you can't get support from your programmers, the simplest way to
accomplish this is to type a prominent hyperlink to your Web site in
the ReadMe file*: "This is version X of the documentation. Click here
to check for a more recent version of the documentation." The biggest
problem with that approach is that Web sites periodically get re-
architected, busting the link. So you have to come up with some
method of ensuring that if the site changes, you leave a "forward"
link that will redirect the browser to the right page.

* On the logic that anyone who actually reads this file is likely to
be someone who cares enough to download updated documentation. <g>

The other significant problem comes from future reinstallations. At
some point, the "most recent" documentation will be for a different
version of the software than the one the user is trying to install or
update, and will no longer be relevant to the installed software.
That's why the programming solution is best: you can design it to
ensure that only relevant updated documentation will be downloaded.

-- Geoff Hart
ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca / geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com
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Checking for updated documentation: From: William Turner

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