Single-sourcing a procedure for multiple uses

Subject: Single-sourcing a procedure for multiple uses
From: "Blount, Patricia A" <Patricia -dot- Blount -at- ca -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 25 Sep 2008 10:22:59 -0400

Good morning, writers,

I have a writing challenge and need the wisdom of your collective

One of software products I'm documenting can be used with about ten
different 3rd party applications. Each application currently has its own
guide, and each guide currently contains its own distinct version of the
same procedure.

There are some very minor differences within that procedure, depending
on the application you're using. For example, you would select the
desired application from a list of all supported applications. In this
example, I've genericized as many steps as possible, changing the
wording of a step like this:

From: "Choose <ApplicationNameA> and then click Next.
To: "Choose the application you wish to protect from the list below and
then click Next."

Here's my dilemma. There's additional pertinent information in this
procedure that applies ONLY to use of one particular application, not
the whole list. In some cases, there may even be additional steps not
present in that procedure for other applications.

I'm having trouble single-sourcing the procedure to meet all my needs.
I'm using AuthorIT. I thought about creating a topic from every step in
the procedure and then stringing them together. That would allow me to
insert extra steps and information as needed. The problem is formatting.
AIT numbers everything as "1" unless it's contained within the same

I also thought about picking one application from the list and using it
as the example throughout, but Management wants specifics in each Guide.

So far, my rather inelegant solution is to store each step as its own
object, then embed each object into a Procedure for each Guide. Embedded
objects will still be modified across all books when the sources change,
so that gives me some single-sourcing benefit. Plus, it allows me to
insert the unique information between embedded objects.

I wondered if anyone has a better solution.

Many thanks,
Patty B

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