Hi Carrie...

For starters, you should get ahold of an XML diff tool (just google "xml 
diff", and you'll see lots of options) so you can determine exactly what 
has changed between versions of this XML file. You should be able to get 
one of your developers to write an XSLT transformation that would 
generate a list of the parameters in the file, and you can compare that 
list to a "TOC" list generated from your Frame file .. this will let you 
determine what's missing or extra.

In an ideal world, you might consider authoring the "descriptions" of 
the parameters and fields in XML (in Frame or another XML editor), then 
run an XSLT transformation on the "descriptions" file and the file 
provided by development to generate the source for your final 
documentation. You'd just open the generated file in Frame (after 
setting up a structure application), and it would be ready to print. The 
EDD could be set up to render any missing descriptions with a big red 
"MISSING DESCRIPTION" note, in which case you'd add that to the 
descriptions file and regenerate.

Obviously this would take some time and money to set up, but in the long 
run will probably save a lot. Just having the ability to easily diff the 
versions of the XML file will probably be a big improvement though.

Good luck!


Scott Prentice
Leximation, Inc.

Carrie Baker wrote:
> Slightly connected to this.
> We have Frame 7.2, not structured and are doing fine.
> We are a small (understaffed) department of 2 half time writers.
> There is one very large chapter of a user guide which is based on
> information from the programmers .xml file.
> Their xml file consists of a list of parameters with various
> explanations about them. This file is used by the application.
> As writers we need to list all of these parameters and explain them.
> Documentation began when the list was a very small list. The SME gave
> us a word file which was eventually converted to Frame with the
> information the users required.
> Since then everything has grown a lot.
> The xml file now contains a over 2000 parameters.
> Various tech writers worked on it over the years and at some point a
> lot of parameters were missed out.
> For every product release a large number of parameters are added to 
> the list.
> The problem I am facing is how to identify the parameters that are
> currently missing from the Frame file, and in the future how to
> smoothly make sure the file is kept up to date. As new features are
> developed R&D tell us which parameters are added, but if parameters
> are changed or removed we do not really have a way of tracking.
> R&D tried to give us an Excel file (i.e. they opened their xml file in
> Excel and saved it for us....), but it actually messed up the
> information, since there were also sub groups of parameters (e.g.
> parameter x contains the following 50 fields, then each field appeared
> as a stand alone parameter).
> As is mentioned below, Frame knows how to talk to xml, so what I am
> looking for is whether someone can tell me, how I can make my
> alphabetical list in FrameMaker (which I am willing to turn into a
> table or something else), talk directly to the xml list to see what is
> missing from my list and in future easily identify what to add.
> However, the entire content of the 2 lists are not identical, since
> the Frame file (or user guide) has to give the user a full explanation
> of the meaning of each parameter, which the .xml file does not do.
> (or what can I ask R&D to do to help us, as each time they only give
> us this messed up Excel file)
> (Oh and my boss does not want to spend too much time on this!)
> ______________________________________________________________________
> Marcus wrote
> "Structure can certainly help - if you store your manuals in XML all the
> manual work can be eliminated. Chances are your bug tracking system can
> export reports in XML. An XSLT stylesheet can very easily replace the
> existing version of this information so when next you open the 
> document in
> FrameMaker, the data is all updated.
> Of course, this open up myriad possibilities for customisation of the bug
> information - separation of code and interface bugs, ordering by severity
> for developers and date for managers, whatever you can imagine.
> The point is that generating this information is best accomplished by 
> your
> bug tracking software, not by FrameMaker. It can generate a report of 
> open
> bugs, so why would you want to do exactly that in FrameMaker? You may 
> want
> to dump it all into FrameMaker and conditionally display it - providing
> different views for different audiences is very much part of what
> FrameMaker should be responsible for.
> Probably the biggest gain that you can get out of XML is the ability to
> make your information span applications, but to do so you obviously need
> to look wider than FrameMaker. You're doing software manuals by the sound
> of it, so you presumably have access to programmers. If I was you, the
> first step would be sit down with a couple of them and see if you have 
> the
> resources to develop a scalable, robust system. I recommend against the
> "toe in the water" approach - I've seen too many people spending too much
> time trying to gradually improve them into the system that they knew they
> wanted but weren't brave enough to embark on in the first place.
> Measure twice, cut once and have fun!"
> Marcus
> _____________________________________________________________
> Carrie Baker
> carriebak at gmail.com

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