Re: Advice for manuals

Subject: Re: Advice for manuals
From: Romay Jean Sitze <rositze -at- NMSU -dot- EDU>
Date: Wed, 14 Dec 1994 15:18:25 -0700

Sounds like you're using a more or less modular approach. Makes good

Is there any way you could pull together an economic justification for
your boss to support purchasing better equipment? We successfully
convinced the powers that be in the company where I work part time to
upgrade so we could be more efficient. It's worth a try.

On Wed, 14 Dec 1994, Paula Reynolds wrote:

> We
> don't have a specified product, so the details on the machines change
> ..oh, I don't know...daily, perhaps.

We face a similar problem. Not to mention that all old files must be
preserved so the boss can track down previous versions for old customers...

> Progress: The heat is on to overhaul the documentation process.

sounds like it's about time! Now's your chance to create a more workable

> Ideally, they'd like to produce manuals that are *only what the customer
> ordered*. Sounds great, but aside from the internal logistics, I'm not
> sure how to produce them.

Have you looked into Framemaker? The conditional text provision allows us
to customize manuals much more easily than with other methods we've tried.

> The idea is that I will write it, and someone
> else will build the manual. For example, if Machine-Control with Z,A,M,
> and R is ordered, our in-house software will have a part number for the
> text associated with Z,A,M, and R. Sounds like no problem....just pull
> Z,A,M, and R off the shelf, right? Or train someone to pull it off the
> archive system, right? Well, what about a table of contents?

Tables of contents can be generated for each version using the Conditional
Text in Frame. Otherwise, you might try combining files into a book
format and generating the TofC on the spot.

Tools: Today I'm using Word for Windows 2.0c. The rumor is that by
> 1995, Word for Windows 6.0 will be loaded. I have at my disposal
> PageMaker and Corel, but I'm familiar with neither (I told you I fell
> into this). Oh yeah, we also have various graphics to be included. I
> finally got our scanner to work, so we can have our original
> illustrations scanned into the document.

Your don't say which version of Corel you have. 3.0, 4. or 5. Do you
have the new Ventura? I've not tried it but some people are saying it's
a vast improvement over the previous versions. Corel is great for
graphics but is not a publishing/word processing program.

Pagemaker is a great and versatile program, but is inadequate for longer

Word for Windows 6 is an excellent word processor, but limited for use as
a complete publishing package. Strongly recomment Framemaker. Will
admit, though, it is incredibly slow on a 386. More argument for upgraded

> Questions: What I'm planning is to write the stuff, incorporate various
> codes, and then train someone (or several someones) how to pull a
> complete manual together. The problem is that the person who is supposed
> to do this doesn't have a 386 computer, even, and is word
> processor-illiterate. Am I being too ambitious? Is there an easier
> solution that I don't know about? What big holes am I missing?

> Budget: None. I'm often expected to produce blood from stone, and
> unfortunately, I've done that. I was too young; I hadn't learned that
> once you stay and work an extra 20 hours to meet the crisis, that the
> crisis will occur every month and you're expected to pull it off.

This is a problem I'd like to hear about from people who've been in this
business longer than I have. Is there any really effective way to get out
of this rut? How can we best avoid it in the first place?


RoMay Sitze rositze -at- nmsu -dot- edu

Practice makes perfect--or perfectly awful.
It depends on what you practice.


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