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Re: Books: parametric documents and FM-database interaction


> Our systems [...] usually consist of a base system chosen from a small
> of standard products which is then customised to a certain extend.
> What I'm looking for is a cost-effective solution that allows me to
> semi-automatically generate, for example, a technical description of
> such a system. The current 'solution' is rather a problem, as it
> consists of you-know-which so-called "text processor" and tedious,
> time-consuming as well as error-prone copy-and-paste-and-reformat
> (and time is _very_ critical for me/us).
> As I've already worked with Framemaker before, I know that Framemaker
> has a feature called 'conditional text' that allows to parametrise
> the content of a document dependant on the values of user-defined
> variables.

The generic document would contain information common to all systems or at
least you would have a base document for each base system.

Then, for each custom variant, you would have content with an appropriate
conditional tag applied, for example, PwrSys_Solar.  You can hide or reveal
any combination of tags.

Another approach would be to keep all the information in a database and
assemble the text for any custom instance by extracting the text from the
database.  FrameMaker has an MML (Maker Markup Language) similar to HTML
which allows you to tag blocks of text similar to the way you apply HTML
tags.  When MML is imported into a FrameMaker template file with matching
para and char tags, it is immediately formatted correctly for print.

Unfortunately, MML does not handle tables or anchored frames, etc. But the
other ASCII representation of a file, MIF (Maker Interchange Format), is
equivalent to RTF and allows you to describe tables, anchored frames,
vector graphics, etc. You can mix MML and MIF in a single file and import
it into a Frame template for formatting.

So perhaps the database could contain blocks of MML and MIF to be assembled
on demand.


Hedley Finger
Technical Communications/Technical communicator and FrameMaker mentor
MYOB Australia <http://www.myob.com.au/>
P.O. box 371   Blackburn VIC 3130   Australia
Tel. +61 3 9894 0945
Mob. +61 412 461 558

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