Integrating single sourcing into WordBy: Alex Masycheff
Alex Masycheff explains how a product called SmartDocs integrates many single-sourcing capabilities into Microsoft Word.
If you ask a technical writer to name the five most popular single-sourcing tools, there’s a good chance that the list will include FrameMaker, RoboHelp, Flare, Doc-To-Help and probably some XML-based tools. I can bet Microsoft Word will not even be mentioned. There’s a good reason for this: implementing techniques such as content conditionalising,
content reuse and multi-channel publishing in the way that we can in single-sourcing tools is virtually impossible in Word.
This results in a serious dilemma. On one hand, many technical communicators need to single source their documentation. On the other, they are often tied to Word for historical or budgetary reasons and have to use inefficient methods (such as copy-andpaste) that increase the cost of creating and maintaining content. This is where a product called SmartDocs can come into its own. It’s an off-the-shelf product that lets you integrate many single-sourcing capabilities, including reuse and conditionalising of content, into the Word environment. SmartDocs is developed by ThirtySix Software (www.thirtysix.net), a US-based company that specialises in building content management solutions on the Microsoft platform.
We began to use SmartDocs intensively for the first time when our company was developing a solution for a client that had:
•Over 20 products, each with several flavours
•A tremendous amount of reusable and constantly updated content
•Content variations for each product depending on individual customer’s requirements
•Several technical writers in a team.
SmartDocs was a great help because it enabled us to address most of the client’s needs and reduce the cost of creating and maintaining the