Re. Handling multiple text variants

Subject: Re. Handling multiple text variants
From: geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA
Date: Wed, 24 Jan 1996 12:59:41 -0600

Franz Steiner wrote to ask about combining various standard
chunks of text to create custom versions of a manual. I'll
assume that you don't want to spend big bucks to purchase a
fullblown document management system, so here are two
homemade approaches that should work:

Put each chunk of text in a database that lets you store
large (e.g., 20K) text fields in each record. Label each
record (each chunk of text) to define its function (e.g.,
"introduction", "file menu instructions", etc.). To create
a customized version, use the database to select all the
text identified by a specific sequence of labels; you
define this sequence yourself based on the chunks that you
want to include in each customized version. Concatenate the
text into a single ASCII file, then open the file in your
word processor and apply the necessary formatting.

If you know how to program (e.g., with the macro language
for any word processor; on the Macintosh, you could also
automate this using QuickKeys or Tempus), work directly
with word processor files. Write a macro that opens a new
file, then inserts the required external files in a
specified sequence. This has a great advantage over the
database approach because you can write and maintain each
chunk of text using your favorite word processor.

For a more sophisticated version of the database approach,
add a tag at the beginning of each chunk of text to define
the function of the text (thus its style); if you know the
formatting codes of your word processor (e.g., WordPerfect,
Microsoft RTF), you should be able to create a file with
the correct format directly from within the database. Then,
you don't have to manually apply any styles inside the word
processor.

This is a primitive form of homemade SGML, so if you like
this approach, you should use SGML tags in the database.
This would let you gradually move to a full SGML setup when
your needs become large enough.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

Disclaimer: If I didn't commit it in print in one of our
reports, it don't represent FERIC's opinion.


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