Single-source authoring tools could be your key to cutting documentation costs and increasing efficiency.
In single-source documentation (or single-source authoring), the same pieces of information that appear in multiple documents are housed in a single location (a database) using a single-source authoring program, such as AuthorIt or Framemaker. The result is that you only have to write and maintain shared content once to produce the documentation you need.
The benefits are clear for companies producing different versions of a document.For example, if you provide users with both a PDF and online help, single-source is ideal.You only have to change the content in one place to produce both the PDF and the online help.Other examples of efficiencies with single-source are documents that share blocks of text.So, for example, if you include the same security or compliance text in multiple documents, single-source would work well: as new compliance rules are adopted, these changes only have to be made one time.
Not only do you save massive amounts of time maintaining several different documents but you also save time proofing the documents.Since the change only has to be made once, the editor only has to review it once.
So why isn’t everyone using single-source?Some of the reasons are based on preference: some companies like to use tools that they know rather than buying and learning single-source authoring programs.Sometimes, companies do not anticipate overlaps in content and needs for multiple versions of a document; what begins with a single user manual suddenly becomes a suite of documents.
For companies with existing documents that share content or are deployed in multiple formats, the initial investment in organizing content into a single-source repository will yield considerable efficiencies and cost savings.Recently, we saw a company with a suite of documents for a particular product that it delivers in PDF and two different online help formats see a considerable cost savings in less than a year, despite upfront cost for reengineering the content.
Shoap Technical Services has extensive experience in single-source authoring.Please contact us for a personalized analysis of whether single-source documentation is appropriate for you.