Single-sourcing online help, take II

Subject: Single-sourcing online help, take II
From: Geoff Hart <Geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Wed, 12 May 1999 09:38:14 -0400

Bob Gembey elaborated on what I'd said earlier: <<Some
tools provide for conditional text -- a single source, which
prints one text under one condition, and another text under
another. For example, for our user manuals, we have a single
source for both Windows and Motif versions...>>

Doing so can certainly move you a lot closer to single-
sourcing, but even so, you're not all the way there. You can
fake the sort of approach you suggested even in software that
doesn't support conditional text using various tricks based on
search and replace and character styles*. For example, create
a pair of phrases for each cross reference, and tag one phrase
(e.g., "see page...") with the character style "print reference"
and the second phrase (e.g., "click here to see...") with the
character style "online reference". Then as your final step,
search to find all instances of one style and delete them,
leaving only the other style intact. If your software doesn't
support search and replace for styles, insert markup codes
(e.g., <print> and </print>) manually and search using
wildcards. You can even get around the search and replace
entirely sometimes by using "hidden text" in the character
styles. These approaches are rather kludgy and error-prone,
though, and for large or complex projects, you'll almost
certainly want to consider something like SGML to
accomplish the same end with much less fuss and much more
power.

* Character styles are styles that you apply to individual
characters, words, or phrases within a paragraph that has its
own style applied.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

"If pro is opposite of con, then what is the opposite of progress?"--Anon.


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