Joel, I'm with Gillian on this one. 

Using this approach (and variables on title pages and in running headers and 
footers for book titles) I managed a pretty complex set of deliverables: two 
versions each of 10 major guides, and three versions of a training guide that 
contained pared-down chapters from each of the major guides. I also produced 
context sensitive help from the same set of FrameMaker source files. 

Because I used Frame 7.2, handling the conditions was tricky, but creative use 
of color (red + green = brown) enabled me to construct a system of 16 possible 
combinations that I could keep track of without too much trouble. The trick was 
to plan the whole thing out in advance, make it logical and easy to remember, 
and to be absolutely rigorous about not straying from the rules. As a one-woman 
department, I was tempted at times to do a little ad hoc conditionalizing, but 
I knew that the whole thing hinged on sticking to the structure I'd created. 

I'm sure others have done even more complicated schemes and as Gillian points 
out, it's easier and cheaper than DITA. 

...Susan




________________________________

Gillian wrote: 

The easiest way to do it is the following:

1. Have 7 Frame book files
2. The book files can share chapter files that are mostly similar;
likewise, they don't share chapters that are radically different for
each manual.
3. Within the chapters, apply conditional text to the minor differences

With this method, you simply set the conditions as needed before your
build your book. When you build your book or PDF, you generate the
manual and only the text conditioned to that manual displays.

This is the method that I use. It's much easier, cheaper and manageable
then DITA.  


-Gillian



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