Re: "Roll your own manuals"

Subject: Re: "Roll your own manuals"
From: "Laura J. Lockhart" <LLOCKHART -at- ABIM -dot- ORG>
Date: Tue, 13 Jul 1999 10:15:43 -0400

Matt Craver asked:

<snip>I'd like to be able to distribute a CD-ROM and have
the clients specify which "documents" make up a "book". I don't
particularly care whether it's HTML, PDF, W97 or FM files. Anyone know of
such a system, or am I going to have to do my own macros/ programming to
make this happen?<snip>

Let me preface my remarks by saying that there's probably a less antiquated system than what I'm about to suggest, but it may be a starting point. I used to work for a consulting firm that sold modular software documentation; at that time, we sold zip files of enough chapters to create anywhere from 5 to 15 manuals, depending on the subject matter. The documents were created in Word Perfect using the Master Document feature---at that time we used 5.1, but the same feature exists in the newest Windows version.

In addition to the "chapter files," we included on the diskette a master document template that had pages with all of the copyright and editorial information; clients signed a contract saying that they could modify the text files however they wanted, but they must include these pages in their printed documents. We also included some simple Word Perfect macros (and instructions for how to copy the macros to the proper directory) that would prompt the user for which chapters they wanted to use; the macro would insert the proper subdocument file name. Another macro would search for character strings that would allow the user to number the chapters and generate a table of contents and index. (I believe we used something like <<ChapterNo>> on the first page of each chapter and in headers).

If your users don't have WP, I suppose Word has a similar feature, but WordPerfect macros are so easy to create and simplify the end-user's task.

Hope this helps,
Laura Lockhart
LLockhart -at- abim -dot- org

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