Document management

Subject: Document management
From: geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA
Date: Fri, 30 Aug 1996 09:32:26 -0500

Tammy Hale asked for suggestion re. document management (60
docs, up to 8 versions of each). Here's a low-tech
solution:

Create a small database based on the titles of each of the
60 main documents; that is, each document defines a single
record in the database. Add a field that contains a general
description of that document's purpose, and then insert
additional fields within each record to define each of the
different versions of the main document. For example, the
record for "introduction" would say something like "this
explains the purpose of the manual", and the subentries
"French", "German", "English" etc. would list the file
names for each language's version. This is a bit ad hoc,
but works nicely, particularly if everyone on the docs team
has access to the database over the network.

In theory, if each document is relatively small, you could
embed it directly in the database; with a little more
database and scripting smarts, you could store the files
outside the database and use the database to concatenate
them. To create a customized manual, simply ask the
database to generate an output file that contains a pick
list of files in whatever order you specify. (The previous
approach requires you to assemble the manuals yourself;
this approach should let you mostly automate the process.)

One caution: Just because you've got a bulletproof
database, don't forget to edit the final manual that you
extract from it. I used to have a lovely owner's manual for
a Pontiac car that contained irrelevant or misleading
chunks of text that came from at least 3 different
vehicles, a classic case of database publishing run amok.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Disclaimer: Speaking for myself, not FERIC.

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