RE: Database-driven publishing

Subject: RE: Database-driven publishing
From: Chris Despopoulos <despopoulos_chriss -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 8 May 2013 01:49:15 -0700 (PDT)

Carla says:
is not yet in a database, but the more I look at it the more

possibilities I see for manipulating it if it is. So that's where I want to take it.

I've no familiarity with any of those programs you listed.

had a quick discussion right after my initial post with one of our

almost all of that content is in our SBM/TeamTrack
application that the developers

use. (SBM by Serena.) Not necessarily in user-friendly format, but it's there.

I may be able to hook into
that database and publish directly from it, but

that requires
additional research.  If I can have it generate formatted reports

commands, that's 90% of my work.

You're absolutely right -- If you can generate a report you're well on your way.  You have options:
* Chances are you can generate XML, and then set up a Maker structure

  app to import into Maker.  Then your generated report is your documentation.

* You generate XML that makes each language entry a DITA conref source,

  and create DITA topics that bring these conrefs in where you

  want them.  Sort of like using snippets in RoboHelp.  This way you

  can mix authored and generated documentation.

* Similar to the above, you could put markers into your document

  to identify which XML report segments you want, and write a

  FrameMaker extendscript to bring them in.  Or something like that. 

  The point being, you get the same effect, but without the overhead of DITA.

* You could write (or get somebody to write) a bridge to your database,

  and put database calls into your document -- the bridge would expand

  them out to proper content in your doc.  I'm talking about an FDK client

  that makes the calls to your database.

I don't know about doing this for RoboHelp or MadCap.  One thing you might be able to do is generate individual topics as reports from your code database, and bring them into your project.  Or you might be able to generate the report as a collection of RH snippets, but I think it's not easy to import external data into a snippets database in RH.  Somebody please correct me if I'm wrong.

I understand other peoples' call for you to investigate existing code documentation tools.  I understand why you want to use the database -- It sounds like your developers already do that, and you want to be as compatible as possible.  But you should at least be aware of tools like JavaDoc and Doxygen.  If nothing else, you will better understand why the database solution is worth the effort.

But one thing that gets my goat is asking question X, and all the answers are, "You should probably do Y instead."  Arrrgh!!!!!!!!!!  I certainly hope I haven't done that!
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