Portable Online Documentation

Subject: Portable Online Documentation
From: Marsha Wolicki <cmawta%taux01 -dot- nsc -dot- com -at- HARVUNXW -dot- BITNET>
Date: Sun, 1 May 1994 11:09:22 IDT

I have been enjoying this list for a few months now, thanks to the
information passed to me by a colleague (that's you Mark). Now I
could use some advice.

We use FrameMaker 4.0 on a Unix platform for most of our documentation.

We have also produced an online help system using the Windows help
compiler and MS Word.

We did not use any special help authoring tools to manage the system.
Instead, I created some tables in FrameMaker on my Unix workstation and
updated them, on the fly, as I created and updated the help files on the PC.
Since we are only two technical writers and after the initial files were
created, I was maintaining them on my own, I was able to do this.

We would like to put all our documentation online in the future. I am
well aware of the fact that online documentation should look very different
online from the way it looks in hard copy. However, initially we will
probably try to come up with a format and style that works fairly well
for both. (Users always want to print hard copies.)

Our customers are programmers and engineers who work for manufacturers
of computerized equipment. For the most part, if the documentation is
complete, clear and well indexed, it does not need to be glitzy and
limited to one thought per panel.

We need to produce online help that can run under Unix or Windows.

Since, we are not on the North American continent, we cannot attend
some of these workshops, demos and seminars relating to online help
and the tools available for creating it. We learn about new tools and
implement new procedures on our own, by reading the manuals.

I am a member of STC, but our local chapter is in a coma and hasn't had
an activity of any kind, in over two years. (As of the last meeting
in February 1992, I was the secretary, so I am in a position to know.)

Does anyone out there have suggestions re the following:

1. Is is possible to produce an online help system that can run in
either a Unix environment or under Windows? If so, how?

2. If not, is it possible to compile one online help system for
the Unix environment and one for the Windows environment from the
same files, e.g., rtf files? If so, how?

3. If not, how would you suggest we tackle this problem?

3. What is the best way to convert a FrameMaker manual to an online
help system?

4. What tools are best for managing and monitoring the tasks and
elements in an online help project of this type?

Thanks to all of you for reading this far, for keeping me from
feeling isolated and for just being there. I hope some of you can
point me in the right direction.

cmawta -at- taux01 -dot- nsc -dot- com
or fax number: 972-9-558322 attn: Marsha

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