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The Joy of Single-sourcing

by Hedley Finger

I have seen the future and it works. At MYOB® (Mind Your Own Business) Australia, we have just finished our first single-sourcing project using mif2go to convert FrameMaker source files to HTML Help *.chm files. These files are also the source of our printed user guide and the hyperlinked PDF of the user guide placed on the distribution CD.

There was considerable once-off pain setting up conversion templates (including CSS files) and conversion options but our next project will be much faster. The converted files do not require any hand tweaking -- we just hand over to the release people to put the *.chm file on the installer CD.

Our testing and support people are rapt, and consider the new help far better than the old help. It has a navigation pane with Contents, Index, Search, and Favorites tabs, a toolbar with Hide [navigation pane], Prev, Next, Back, Forward, Print, Options, and Welcome (custom Home) buttons. An outsider would have no inkling that the help was converted from FrameMaker source files as the appearance is completely different from the printed book and hyperlinked PDF. You, too, can single-source successfully provided you plan beforehand and your team understands the process.

What Is the Rationale?

Be clear why you want to single-source.

Rules for Success

Single-sourcing can work if you follow these rules:

But if you think you can take some legacy manual and magically transform it into help or Web pages, or anything else, everything the single-sourcing sceptics say will come true.

Hedley Finger
Documentation process implementation
Adobe(R) Certified Expert, FrameMaker 5.5
Hand Holding Projects Pty Ltd
ABN 98 007 418 153
Technical consultancy for electronic publishing
28 Regent Street
Camberwell VIC 3124
Tel +61 3 9809 1229
Mobile +61 412 461 558

Copyright © Hand Holding Projects Pty Ltd 2001.
All rights reserved.


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