Re: Pray for me

Subject: Re: Pray for me
From: "Tim Altom" <taltom -at- simplywritten -dot- com>
To: <technical_writer -at- rte -dot- com>, "TechDoc List" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 23 Jul 2000 14:05:06 -0500

You're toast. No amount of work will replace the planning and prep necessary
to pull this off. You might have a good chance if the damned manual had
included styles, but without them, you're in deep trouble.

Your only chance, it seems to me, is...

* Dump RoboHelp. It's too weenie for this job. Get ForeHelp and get somebody
locally to show you how to use its single-source capabilities.
* Start slogging through the manual, tagging everywhere. You may have to
content yourself with basic tags like "topic". If your manual is done in the
classic "river-rafting" style, with no strong structure, you're utterly
screwed. No amount of frenzied tagging will help. Give up and kill yourself
now. 400 pages filled with nose-to-tail paragraphs that relate structurally
to all the other pages ("This is shown on the previous page, in which...")
are impossible to structurally tag effectively in such a short time. Even if
you could devise a quick template and shoot through the manual, you'll miss
more than you hit. It might be good enough for the uninformed, but it won't
really work. Maybe you'll get lucky and the FDA inspector won't know beans
from apple butter about help files.

If your structure is such a mess (and I suspect from other clues that it
is), you'll need at least a few more weeks to rescue this disaster. Some
idiot has created a no-win situation for you by doing absolutely no
planning, so don't expect divine intervention to salvage the situation. God
helps those who help themselves with preparation. And this isn't even
including the work necessary to coordinate the context IDs with whomever you
have to talk with. You should start that immediately, so you know what
"contexts" you'll need!

Tim Altom
Simply Written, Inc.
Featuring FrameMaker and the Clustar(TM) System
"Better communication is a service to mankind."
Check our Web site for the upcoming Clustar class info

----- Original Message -----
From: <technical_writer -at- rte -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Sent: Sunday, July 23, 2000 10:42 AM
Subject: Pray for me

> I have a new assignment: "Do a context-sensitive HTMLHelp system for
> Product X [an automated medical device used in hospital operating rooms].
> The 400-page user manual needs to be in HTML, too. We need a working
> prototype of both, complete enough to satisfy the FDA, for the next
> product
> build on Thursday afternoon."
> Wrinkles:
> * I've never done HTML Help.
> * The last version of RoboHelp I played with was v1.
> * I can't use right-clicks for context sensitivity because loading the
> Robohelp dll with the product disables many of the product features.
> * The manual has been done entirely in Normal style;
> font/size/style/justification changes for headings and captions and lists
> and stuff were all done manually for each word or paragraph.
> I've already reassigned my other active projects, and informed my
> supervisor
> that there will be no progress this week on our internal quality
> documentation. I still don't see any way to accomplish this on time
> without
> serious supernatural intervention.
> Thanks in advance for all prayers, incantations, candles, amulets, and
> GoodThoughts(tm).
> Kat Nagel
> Real Time Enterprises, Inc.
> kat_nagel -at- rte -dot- com

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