Online documentation

Subject: Online documentation
From: Hideki Ishii <h -dot- ishii -at- ISDN -dot- NET>
Date: Sat, 29 Jun 1996 23:20:02 +1014

Hi, everybody. I am posting this message because I am trying to find out
about online documentation, and I thought this would be the best place to
post questions on online documentation.

Currently, I am working on a sort of a big project. The company I work for
has several technical documents (specification of manufacturing parts,
etc.). These documents are saved in a hard copy form. Originally, these
documents were very small documents (about 30 to 40 pages). However, after
years of modifications and changes on specifications and growth in the
lines of products, the documents got thicker and thicker, and now I am
dealing with documents with about three inches thick for each doc.

Recently, my boss told me to make the documents available in electric form.
The reason my boss wants the document in electric form is because it is
easier to update any changes in specifications. So far, if there are any
changes in the specifications, those changes are sent to a foreign country
because this company is a foreign-based company, and the headquarters in
the foreign country keep and control the specs. Upon the receipt of update
information, the headquarters make modifications in the specs and just send
the hard copies of updated specs to us. From the time we send the changes
of specs to the headquarters until we receive the hard copies of updated
specs., we have to wait for a long time. My boss doesn't like this, and we
decided to control the specs here in the United States.

You may think that it is very easy to update the specs in the US because
all we have to do is ask the headquarters to send the specs which are kept
in electric form in the foreign country, and open the computer file with
our computer. However, this is not that simple. My boss wants to make the
document more complicated and available on computer network (LAN).

My boss's intention is this. He would like to have the specifications
available on computer, and whenever he would like to see specification on a
certain part, he just punch in the name of the part on a computer keyboard
and see the specification on the screen. This is more like database
search. It is easy to keep the specifications as a word-processing file
with graphics. But that is not what my boss wants. He would like to keep
the document in electric form, and make it searchable easily for whatever
engineers wants to know because the technical documents I am talking here
are very large in volume.

When my boss told me about this, all I could think for the solution is
online documentation. Now, my question is this. Is it possible to do this
kind of thing? If so, where do I need to start? Also, if this is
impossible, what would be the best solution?

Recently, Society for Technical Communication talks about online
documentation, electric publication, SGML, and such. Am I on the right
track? I appreciate if any of you could help me out.


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