Re: on custom-built documents & feature databases...

Subject: Re: on custom-built documents & feature databases...
From: Robert Plamondon <robert -at- PLAMONDON -dot- COM>
Date: Sun, 17 Mar 1996 09:27:37 PST

>The problem: how will we selectively compile their
>documentation to match their feature sets? how can
>we set up feature databases with user-oriented info
>(not functional specification) that serves both
>product information and training needs?

Interleaf, for one, has a pair of features: "Attributes" and "Control
Expressions." These let you make text conditionally appear and disappear.
You can tag all the various conditional text with attributes. When
you set a boolean control expression, the text with attributes that
match the control expression are visible, and the ones that fail vanish.
As a nice wrinkle, text with no attributes at all is always visible, so
stuff is visible by default.

You could create a control expression like:
"modelyear=1990 and engine=v6 and transmission=auto and package=LS"
to describe my Isuzu Trooper, which would allow a custom owner's manual
to appear -- one which described my model year, engine, transmission,
and options package, while omitting stuff I don't care about, like
info about the four-cylinder engine or electric windows.

Setting this up requires care and a significant amount of debugging,
but it works. There are a number of clever wrinkles that make these
features as easy to use as possible, despite the obvious conflicts
between hidden text and WYSIWYG DTP.

-- Robert
Robert Plamondon, President/Managing Editor, High-Tech Technical Writing, Inc.
36475 Norton Creek Road * Blodgett * Oregon * 97326
robert -at- plamondon -dot- com * (541) 453-5841 * Fax: (541) 453-4139

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