Project Management

Subject: Project Management
From: "Kamela J. Salyers" <kjsalyer -at- FIREFLY -dot- PRAIRIENET -dot- ORG>
Date: Fri, 16 Dec 1994 10:41:39 -0600

Hi. I really need some advice. I am working on a project that is fairly
detailed so please bear with my explanation. The company I work for is
porting our software to an AS400 machine. The development is being done
in Synon, a CASE tool. Synon is a *wonder* program that allows you to
rapidly create several customer applications. I am writing the help text.
While I have been a tech writer for 3 1/2 years, I have never written online
documentation before and have been struggling with this project since
June. We decided to provide help text for each screen (about 750) and each
field (about 600). Currently, we do not "have time" to create a search
index. (That was not my decision!)

Synon is not flexible for producing online documentation. You can use UIM
codes and create attributes such as bolding, reverse highlighting,
bullets, numbered lists, etc. You can even create hypertext links with
UIM codes. However it is hard to work with because simple things like,
inserting text, wrapping, spacing, spelling checking are just not part of

It was decided that the help text for the software we are producing in Synon
should be created in WordPerfect and kept in 7 files (divided up
alphabetically by program name). Then the help text should be cut and
pasted over in each separate Synon help text panel (there is one for each
field and screen which is over 1000). Creating and working with the help
text in WP would definitely make spell checking, search and replace,
adding and manipulating text much easier. However, I feel that maintain
duplicate documentation will only introduce more errors than maintaining
just one version. I think it seems ridiculous to cut and paste over 1000
piece of text. There are just too many loop holes--that text might slip
through. Not only does it seem to be an inefficient use of time to cut
and paste but it seems so easy for updated WP text to not get pasted to
Synon. Or for someone to correct the Synon text to fix a compiling
problem and then the WP version would be different and then you might
copy a version that would cause a program to blow up. While using WP does
have its advantages, overall, I see it as a maintenance nightmare, recipe
for chaos. Trying to work around Synon's limitations will only create
more work, IMHO.

Please let me know what you think. If you are familiar with Synon, all
the better. Just ask if you need clarification on anything. Any similar
stories would be helpful too. I am arguing with a consulting writer (who
has had online and Synon experience) and developers. But I am going to
be thtional text and simultaneously pasting all text to Synon panels at
once are not possibilities.

Kamela J. Salyers
Technical Writer
kjsalyer -at- firefly -dot- prairienet -dot- org

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