Re: Amy Peacock's print vs. web problem

Subject: Re: Amy Peacock's print vs. web problem
From: "Ridder, Fred" <F -dot- Ridder -at- DIALOGIC -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 4 May 1998 08:08:05 -0400

I can't believe that you are seriously proposing SGML and Arbor Text
as a possible solution to Amy Peacock's situation.

Her original query indicates that she is new to techwriting, has no
formal background in technical communications, and is the sole
techwriter at her company. She further states that
> My boss...wants me to be writing and not learning a new tool.
(the tool in that case being RoboHelp, which they already own).

Yet here you are proposing a solution that costs tens of thousands
of dollars, has an enormous learning curve, and is really designed
for situations where a company has a large techwriting staff (dozens
to hundreds of writers) and a large number of different documents.
Proposing ArborText for this situation makes about as much sense
as recommending that new computer users who want to keep their
address books on their computers should use an Oracle database.
Serious overkill in either case.

What Amy really needs is a recommendation for a suite of tools
that facilitates high-quality print, HTML, and context-sensitive help
outputs from a single source document. The general subject of
single-sourcing has been discussed pretty frequently on the list,
but everybody seems to have a different opinion on what specific
set of tools to use. Given that Amy's company already uses Word,
and owns RoboHelp, I'd say they are 2/3 of the way home. The
missing piece is a tool to generate good HTML from a Word source
document, and my personal recommendation would be HTML
Transit. This is not to say that HTML Transit is the easiest tool to
learn--its flexibility and power means a large number of control
panels, and a lot of its settings interact--but it can produce pretty
acceptable results while you're learning how to fine-tune your
HTML presentation. A full-featured demo version of HTML Transit
is available from the publisher's website:

Other than this, the best advice to a new techwriter trying to do
single-source documentation is to invest the time to build a good
Word template, and then use it always. A well-constructed and
consistently applied stylesheet is crucial to successful single-
sourcing, since most tools use paragraph styles as the primary
determinant of how they structure their translation.

Fred Ridder (mailto:f -dot- ridder -at- dialogic -dot- com)
Senior Technical Writer
Dialogic Corporation, Parsippany, NJ

And to keep our marketing people happy:
Get the Dialogic Edge at:

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Robert E. Garland [SMTP:robert -at- JTAN -dot- COM]
> Sent: Friday, May 01, 1998 8:04 PM
> Subject: Amy Peacock's print vs. web problem
> Amy:
> A possible solution, in theory at least, is to use SGML, which is the
> grandaddy (grandma?) of HTML.
> Supposedly, a document written and maintained in SGML can be output to
> either a nice page layout or a nice screen layout, depending on the FOSI
> in use. The FOSI is the software that determines the "look" for the
> document. The structure of the document is controlled by another bit of
> code called the Data Type Definition (DTD). I am currently working in a
> rather kludgy (is this really a word?) adaptation of SGML and the
> publications gurus speak of a screen FOSI versus a print FOSI. Do a
> search on Standard Generalized Markup Language and you will get more
> information. Some lurkers on this discussion group may also have good
> input, and perhaps real experience using SGML. HTML is, I am told, a
> particular DTD for SGML that is designed for screen presentation.
> Anyway, the SGML purpose is to "write once, output in any necessary
> form."
> ArborText of Ann Arbor Michigan also has information and a web page.
> Good hunting!
> --
> Robert Garland Amateur Radio Station NX3S
> Hilltown Township Bucks County Grid FN20ii
> Pennsylvania USA robert -at- jtan -dot- com

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