I feel like I should re-introduce myself as it has been so long since I’ve posted.
Whew. Got the formalities out of the way. What have you been up to for the last, approved oh, six months? I’ve been working away, busy with work, family, and other life events.
In the last several months we’ve been going through a pretty big shift at work, as we are in the process of migrating to a new help authoring platform, Author-it. This has been somewhat of a painful transition personally, as I have so much domain knowledge in our old tool, MadCap Flare. However, we are standardizing across the larger organization, and there are other departments that had already purchased Author-it and invited us to piggy-back on the work they were already doing. One department hired an Author-it administrator who moved here from out of state to take this job, so there has been quite a bit of momentum moving this direction.
For one project I’m working on, Author-it is a natural fit. We have around 25 subject matter experts from three different departments contributing help content for a multi-year, multiphase roll out of new global supply chain software. These authors are in at least five separate locations, and many are simultaneously contributing content to the project. Authors need to be able to contribute to the project using their own computers at their work location, but the data needs to be stored centrally for management purposes. Since these SMEs aren’t help authors, we have a fairly extensive review process where we need to track seven different review statuses and ensure documents move properly through the reviews. We are extensively re-using content across the departments; what one department authored last month becomes the starting place for a different department’s project this month. We need to be able to version topics so we can edit versions of the documents for an upcoming release while still publishing content from the previous release. We have three help authors managing the documentation project, and we have major milestones still before the end of this year.
For this project, Author-it is a natural fit. We are using Author-it Live (a web-based tool) for SMEs to create topics, generate content, and store in the database. We are using Author-it Release States to ensure documents properly pass through the review cycle. We are using versioning in Author-it to edit topics that will be different in the next version of the release while still publishing updates to the current version of the topic. Author-it Live means we don’t have to install software on each author’s computer; we just point them at a URL and they can create and update content as needed. We are using Author-it Xtend to identify potential content reuse scenarios as we are creating new content. We are using Author-it Reviewer to allow reviewers to comment on documents during the review cycle. Soon we hope to be using Aspect to allow us to publish a single output deliverable that dynamically populates information based on the user’s role in LDAP. (Thus, users with role X will get one list of topics and users with role Y will get a potentially different list of topics that pertain directly to them.)
So the focus of my blog will now shift to include advice and tips on both Flare AND Author-it. For those of you who are longtime followers because I’ve traditionally blogged about Flare, may I suggest that this will broaden your horizon to understand how similar results can be achieved across several different help authoring tools. I will still blog about Flare. I love Flare. It is my go-to tool for working on projects, especially among a small team of writers. But I’ll add to that posts about Author-it based on the experiences I’m having using the tool (or, more accurately, suite of tools).
So, it’s good to be back, and I look forward to sharing with you things I discover about both tool suites that can help you be better in the tool you are using, whatever it is.