ICE train: On the fast track
A customer sells a plant that hardly changes in its design. Nonetheless, plant is customer-specific and therefore different. We have analyzed the components that remain unchanged over a certain number of plants, the components that may recur occasionally, and the components that almost always change considerably with each plant. We can now develop an operating manual, a service manual and a quick user guide with a total of 450 pages at relatively short notice. This can be achieved by using a great deal of conditional text that is printed or not printed depending on the current plant design, by using text modules for each plant module and by the use of variables that control the flow of information based on the modules that are (are not) to be incorporated. Even when the plant is fine-tuned up to the last minute, we can still deliver the manual when the customer runs the acceptance tests at the factory. The costs are well below typical values for plants in the mechanical engineering construction.
The use of up-to-date translation tools is a factor that must already be taken into account at the time of writing the original documents to be translated. In addition, the translator and technical writer/editor have to work closely together. If this condition is fulfilled, the editors can ensure a high translation quality and lay the foundation for a cost effective solution. For example, using a translation memory software during the translation of individual versions of a document ensures that all changes are translated and that all text segments that have already been translated in earlier versions of the document can be presented to the translator for confirmation. In this way, the translation of these segments does not have to be repeated every time. This is the case even if the structure of the document has been changed completely, i.e. if the sequence of the text has been heavily reworked.
Software manuals and online-help systems
If the customer is not one of the few giants in the software industry, his budget is usually too small to create a complex help system, as is available in the Office package, and a handbook over and above that. But even a good manual, where the contents can be retrieved context sensitively just by hitting the F1 key from within the software, can be of great help to the user. Manual and online-help systems are therefore generated from a single (text) source. Of course, in doing that, we make sure that once context identifiers have been assigned, these have to remain unchanged through the various development stages of the document. (The context identifiers are the links that hold the online-help and the software together.) Because of cost restrictions, the contents can usually only be adapted to the publishing medium (paper, screen) in a limited way, the layout can be completely trimmed to the visual habits of the user and display conditions of the medium.
Alternatively, at even lower costs the PDF file of the manual may be linked context sensitive, refer to PDF as online help.
Web sites that can be maintained by amateurs
While WYSIWYG web editors can make you believe suggest that anybody can create ambitious web pages, HTML remains a complex subject that is difficult to master for most people. If however, contents and layout of the website are completely separated in the source material, contents can be published even by those colleagues who are experts in their topics and can write texts, but do not know much about internet or browsers.
This website for example has been created using the content management system phpCMS. This system allows the complete separation of contents and layout. While the content is being created, the editors do not have to bother about programming: They simply write their text. On the other hand, the layout can be altered comparatively easily. For further information, refer to " Technology of this website".