RE: in search for better tools

Subject: RE: in search for better tools
From: "Combs, Richard" <richard -dot- combs -at- Polycom -dot- com>
To: GILLIOTTE Valérie <vgilliotte -at- mega -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 8 Dec 2009 08:51:07 -0700

GILLIOTTE Valérie wrote:

> We are currently using Frame 7.1 and WWP2003 + ePro for single-sourcing our
> documentation. When I mean single sourcing, I mean having the same source
> for Pdfs and on-line help, that's all. We are now up against a new problem
> : having to produce different outputs based on the same source but with
> slight differences in the names of concepts etc (for example, according to
> the framework customers are using, a cat could be called a dog .... (but
> the principle of use of the tool remains the same).
> Right now, we would have to duplicate large portions of texts, changing
> them slightly, which is insane. I know Frame 7 is not ideal for managing
> multiple conditions and and I don't find text insets common to all products
> that easy to manage.

Do you really need "ideal"? There are people on the FrameUsers list who've been managing scores of conditions in various versions of FM for years.

Yes, FM 9 is more flexible because you can use Boolean expressions (with AND and OR operators) to specify what to display, whereas earlier versions of FM only OR conditions. But you've always been able to overcome the lack of ANDing by creating additional conditions.

For instance, instead of conditions for print, help, cat, dog, and comment, you could use cat-print, cat-help, dog-print, dog-help, cat-comment, and dog-comment. It requires more careful planning, and people who use a dozen or more conditions report using a spreadsheet to help manage them (I don't have any personal experience with that much complexity).

It helps to stick with a minimum unit to conditionalize -- either a sentence or a paragraph -- and not let yourself conditionalize a word here and there (that's especially bad if translation may be in the future). For "slight differences in the names of concepts," don't use conditional text _at all_ -- use variables. Same for product and company names (who knows when one of those is going to change overnight), etc.

I'm not saying don't upgrade to FM 9. It has many other new features and enhancements besides more flexible conditional text, so if the budget permits, you may want to do so. But it doesn't sound like you _need_ to do so to address the problem you describe. And FM 9 represents a bit of an adjustment for those of us used to (and efficient with) the stodgy old interface. :-}

Be aware that if you go to FM 9, you'll need to upgrade WebWorks or switch to something else for help output. So you'd want to look at Adobe's Technical Communications Suite. You're talking major changes that you shouldn't rush into, and certainly not in the middle of a release cycle.

As for structure, nothing you said suggests a need for that. Personally, I'd stick with what I had for now -- it should be easily up to the task -- and start looking into the possibility of upgrading at a convenient (i.e., not busy) time in the future.


Richard G. Combs
Senior Technical Writer
Polycom, Inc.
richardDOTcombs AT polycomDOTcom
rgcombs AT gmailDOTcom


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in search for better tools: From: GILLIOTTE Valérie

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