Re: Single Sourcing

Subject: Re: Single Sourcing
From: "Miller, Lisa" <Lisa -dot- Miller -at- ANHEUSER-BUSCH -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 1 Jul 1999 10:02:43 -0500

Dan, et al:

The recent discussion about single sourcing went beyond using an RTF file to
produce HTML, XML, Online Help, and hard copy. The discussion focused more on
how to conceive of and store information for use and delivery in several formats
organized to met the needs of multiple audiences. In that way, I fully support
"single sourcing."

However, I do take issue with Doc-To-Help's approach to presenting online help.
A help developer must first create the hard copy with it's specific presentation
styles, content, and organization and have Doc-To-Help add the necessary tags
and some additional formatting to create online help. This approach is good for
a help developer that (okay this sounds harsh, sorry) isn't ready or doesn't
want to address the specific presentation and organization issues of electronic
media. I don't feel that information developed for linear use is directly
adaptable for non-linear use.

In linear development such as a hard copy manual, a writer builds on previously
presented information and provides cross-references to that information. The
writer must also provide more illustrations as reference points for the reader.
The writer may also have to provide additional in situ definitions and
explanations for more complicated directions or information.

By contrast, non-linear information such as on-line help (Web-Based or WinHelp)
should take advantage the multiple avenues a reader has to information such as
hyperlinks, pop-ups, glossary, indexes, and search engines. Electronic help
systems usually provide information in smaller "chunks" and can't assume the
reader is aware of supporting information. Although, they can provide links to
supporting information to assist the reader. Electronically delivered
information can also use links to present supporting illustrations as needed.

I don't believe that direct conversion from a hard-copy format to an electronic
format addresses the contrasts between the two medias. Granted, Doc-To-Help
does address some of them, but like any automated conversion, it has
limitations. Only a help developer concerning him/herself with all the
presentation issues associated with an electronic presentation can intervene
where the automated process fails. Unfortunately, Doc-To-Help masks these
issues and allows a help developer to pay less attention to them.

My experience has been that less experienced help developers rely on this tool
until they gain enough confidence in this media to address the wider issues of
electronic presentation. Once they have this confidence, these developers begin
to look for ways to present information that allows for non-linear use, more
hyperlinks, more emphasis on user search support, and indirect
cross-referencing. I have found that RoboHelp tends to better support this type
of development. It is a more complicated tool to use, but it provides more
flexibility for development.

Obviously biased, but I feel there are some legitimate issues that must be

Lisa Miller
Technical Writer
lisa -dot- miller -at- anheuser-busch -dot- com

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Dan Soft/Export [SMTP:dmg -at- SOFTEXPORT -dot- COM]
> Sent: Thursday, July 01, 1999 11:14 AM
> To: TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU
> Subject: Re: Single Sourcing
> Hi Gail
> Doc-To-Help is recognized as the only true single source help authoring
> tool. From one tool and one source document you can output to ant an all
> help platforms - and maintain them in synch. It has a conditional text
> feature where you can mark text as document only; WinHelp only ; JavHelp etc
> (including combinations of help/doc formats).
> There real power of single sourcing comes when you go to update your
> documentation/help later - you don't have to go back and hand chisel several
> formats one by one.
> Why not download a free eval at
> As I said last week it might be worth reading that article on Help tools
> Regards
> Dan
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Technical Writers List; for all Technical Communication issues
> [mailto:TECHWR-L -at- listserv -dot- okstate -dot- edu]On Behalf Of Xiang Li
> Sent: 30 June 1999 15:17
> To: TECHWR-L -at- listserv -dot- okstate -dot- edu
> Subject: Re: Single Sourcing
> Gail:
> (I think it might be a good idea to send to the list so that others can
> share)
> Sorry that I could not reply to your message yesterday. I was busy with
> work.
> The idea of single sourcing is to produce one source and obtain many
> outputs so that you do not need to maintain two or more products which is
> not quite possible now. What I did was to develop online help with Robohelp
> 7.0, and generate manual out of the help source files. However, it took me
> a long time to modify the manual because I have to implement different
> styles for help and manual. For example, in online Help you use links, when
> it is converted into manual, the links will not automatically converted
> cross references, you have to manually define the cross reference. I still
> have to maintain the manual and help depending upon what kind of
> maintenance it is.
> The advantage of doing this is that I do not need to go between two
> programs (previously our help is in Robohelp and manual is in FrameMaker).
> After I generated manual from Robohelp, it is a word document, and Robohelp
> works with MS word.
> Another way to do single source is to use FrameMaker to produce the manual
> first, and use a special program to convert the manual into online Help.
> Sorry that I forgot the name of the program or who makes it. It will cost
> you around $300.
> Let me know how you decide to implement single sourcing.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Gail_Waldron -at- psdi -dot- com [SMTP:Gail_Waldron -at- psdi -dot- com]
> Sent: Tuesday, June 29, 1999 11:53 AM
> To: xli%FEDERALAPD -dot- COM%PSDI -dot- COM -at- psdi -dot- com
> Subject: Single Sourcing
> Hi Xiang. Our technical writing group is at the beginning stages of looking
> into
> how to implement single sourcing. Do you have any tips for us on what you
> found
> helpful when you were were considering single sourcing? I'd appreciate any
> information you could give us.
> Thanks
> Gail
> From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000==
> From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000==

From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000=

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