Re: MS Access and Word/HTML doc integration

Subject: Re: MS Access and Word/HTML doc integration
From: "Mark Baker" <mbaker -at- omnimark -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 14 Dec 1999 13:54:46 -0500

Adam Newton wrote


> Basically, I need to develop some kind of db that could house
> documentation/information chunks that could be used/reused in a number of
> online and hardcopy formats. These chunks would probably include
procedures
> and boilerplate that could be used in hard copy training handouts, hard
copy
> end user manuals, HTML-based online help, and other HTML-based doc pieces
> (tutorials, lessons, and so on).

This is how we do our documentation at OmniMark.

> I'm assuming (dangerous) that it would probably be best to house these
> chunks in a way that is independent of formatting.

If you will be applying more than one format to them, then yes.

> Thus, I'd be preserving
> the content of, say, a procedure as flat text in the db,

Flat text probably won't cut it. You will probably need to add markup. You
can use SGML or XML or anything else that meets your needs, but you will
need to add markup to express sutucutres and relationships that are not easy
to express in your database.

>and I'd rely on my
> various Word and HTML templates to do the work of prettifying/formatting
the
> chunks in the final documents.

We use OmniMark programs to process the database structure and the markup
and produce HTML, MIF and RTF in order to produce Web pages, PDF, and
WinHelp.


> For the hard copy pieces, I'm hoping someone might be able to share
> experience with building an Access db that Word could in some way
> communicate with to grab the requisite pieces.

Word is not good at this. Instead, write a program that queries your
database and outputs RTF. Let word read the RTF. You can then use a Word
template to format the base RTF document.

> We can imagine a scenario in
> which we can suck the text out of the Access db, but we're not precisely
> sure how we'd make it updateable without having to rerun the routine every
> time a change is made to the info chunk housed in the db.

You can't. That's why you have to make the production process fully
automated. We build a complete document set in four different formats, fully
formatted, in about 90 minutes. We do it using OmniMark programs as
described above to produce HTML, MIF for import into Frame for automatic
pagination, and RTF for the WinHelp compiler.

> I'd also appreciate any info people could share on a similar scenario
> involving HTML documents.

This is where the "push" solution we use is particularly advantageous. It
can output to any format without requiring a tool specific to that format
with the ability to read the database or process the markup.

I will be demonstrating our methodology at the WinWriters 2000 conference in
March.


---
Mark Baker
Senior Technical Communicator
OmniMark Technologies Corporation
1400 Blair Place
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada, K1J 9B8
Phone: 613-745-4242
Fax: 613-745-5560
Email mbaker -at- omnimark -dot- com
Web: http://www.omnimark.com







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