Re: Feasibility of WinWord for a large pjt

Subject: Re: Feasibility of WinWord for a large pjt
From: "Steven J. Owens" <puff -at- NETCOM -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 7 May 1996 19:24:12 -0700

Hey folks,

LTNS, hm? I'm not exactly "back" (my schedule is too erratic these
days for me to regularly keep up with the traffic here) but I just
gzipped up my back mail from techwr-l and in the space of what, half
a day or so, got another 50 messages. Geez. But, at least 50 messages
I can actually read in a sane amount of time :-0

The question was asked:
> I have a large project (700-page manual) which was created in Ventura
> Publisher. [...]
> I am about to do the Windows version written documentation. My
> client would like me to convert the project from Ventura to Word so
> that the same source can be used for written documentation and on-
> line help.

I can't *really* speak to the feasibility of doing docs this
large in word (although I personally shy away from it; FrameMakeris a
much better bet, IMHO), but in answer to your second question...

> b) any other suggestions/data on alternative solutions, given that
> the problem we are trying to solve is one source for doc and help,

Hm... Not that I'm pushing FrameMaker at you (it's great, but who
needs to buy and learn a new package for a single project? It can be
pricey too, particularly with the extra tools I'm about to suggest),
but there are packages out for taking a FrameMaker book to WinHelp
format.

Another point that comes to mind is that, if the existing package
has a Winhelp version and a Ventura version, you might be better off
starting the next set of docs from the old Winhelp source files (if
they're congruent enough) rather than trying to convert the Ventura
stuff.

Finally, if you take on the Ventura-to-Word hurdle, consider putting
together some scripts to do some of the most rote-intensive parts of the
conversion. I don't know enough about PCXs to comment on the grief
involved in converting them, but I've done Ventura-to-FrameMaker
conversion in the past, with a large collection of books (about 5000 pages
all told). (The originals were done five or six years ago, to give you a
vague idea of the version of Ventura involved). For a 700-page project,
it's probably worth your while to write some scripts to do the grunt work.

Back when I was doing the Ventura-to-Frame conversion, I wrote
some rather complex ELISP macros (for EMACS on a unix system). These
days I'd do it in Perl (I didn't know Perl, nor had it available, back
then). The macros I used searched for the Ventura markup tags and
converted them to appropriate MML tags (Maker Markup Language, a
FrameMaker formatting language that's not very much supported, but is
good for doing a lot of brute force, bulk formatting on existing stuff
before bringing it into Frame). Even if whatever you convert to (Word,
Idaknow) doesn't have any sort of markup language, you can "fake" it
buy inventing some of your own, then using Macros inside the application
to search for your tags and apply formatting.

My main point, though, is that if you're going to do something
like this, some really rather trivial script-writing can save you a
lot of time and energy and get a lot of the "grunt" work done for you,
leaving the tweaking and finessing to do by hand.

Steven J.Owens
puff -at- netcom -dot- com
puff -at- envirolink -dot- org
http://www.envirolink.org/homepage/puff

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