Master Documents, Slave Writers

Subject: Master Documents, Slave Writers
From: Moshe Koenig <alsacien -at- NETVISION -dot- NET -dot- IL>
Date: Tue, 23 Jul 1996 22:56:13 PDT

What I have to say about Word's Master Document utility isn't printable
here. I've often talked about organizing a march on Microsoft just over
this issue alone. When I was working on a freelance project that started
with a modest 50 page manual and online Help, I was able to juggle the
project nicely between Word and ForeHelp.

Then the storm broke. The project manager asked me to export the manual
from ForeHelp into Word. He probably never realized that the two were
radically different in style, and suddenly he felt that he didn't have
a manual. Lucky me; I slaved for the next two months "fatttening up" the
manual -- until it was well over 300 pages! I started out using Word's
Master Document utility, but it started to sputter at a certain point.
The whole issue of cross-referencing -- which was essential to the
manual in question -- was hopeless beyond all description in this
project. I finally gave up and eliminated the references, feeling that
Bill Gates had done a number on us all, but on me in particular.

Later, as I was licking my wounds from this project, I interviewed in
a company whose representatives rather arrogantly brushed aside my
protests as so much childish whining. "I don't agree with you," said
one of the department managers in response to my complaint about Word's
inadequacy in cross-chapter cross-references. "We're able not only to
cross-reference between chapters; we cross-reference between documents.
We use macros. It works beautifully."

Now here's my question for the rest of you: I'd like to know HOW they
overcame the problem with macros. Admittedly, I'm a bit of a WordBasic
programming wiz myself, but I'm only one person in my organization,
and there are only 24 hours of the day, not all of which are suitable
for working. I have to fill most of the waking hours with work that
generates immediate income. If someone can think of the CONCEPT behind
such a system of macros, that in itself could be the start of something.
I just don't have the time to sit down and construct a plan of action
for something that is a behind-the-scenes act at best. There MUST be
a way, unless these blowhards were just blowing hard. Their company is
regarded as very successful, although the technical writers usually
end up leaving in tears; you tell me who's kidding whom!

Just as a side note: while I have to delete a lot of the mail from the
list because of the volume, I often get some valuable information. Here
in Israel, there is a feeling of the blind leading the blind. My
telephone rings off the hook with questions to the point that I've
stopped answering during the work day; I just can't take any more
distractions. The list, on the other hand, is a great source of
information for me, a person who is often regarded as an information
source (whether rightly or not, who can decide?).

- Moshe Koenig
Ra'anana, Israel

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