Software is under constant development and the documentation needs to be regularly updated to stay aligned, it may also need to be translated and made available on various platforms to various types of users including: Customers, Customer Support Staff and potential buyers. The multi-channel delivery requirements of software documentation, especially when localization is involved makes it an ideal candidate for XML and DITA. DITA itself was originally conceived by IBM for their own hardware and software before being given to the open source community via OASIS – the open standards organization.
How can XDocs help Computer Software Developers?
As well as providing a central repository for all information XDocs can enhance the creation of software documentation in several key areas:
Branch and Merge
With the next release always on the horizon software developers are constantly updating and evolving their documentation and they are often running similar sets of the same documentation.
An example of this would be version 2:0 of a product being developed whilst version 1.9 is still being worked on. The document sets for version 1.9 and version 2.0 would share many topics but there will be some variations.
XDocs branch and merge capability allows users to run instant comparison of the two document sets highlighting where changes have been made and indicating where older content on either the branch or trunk should be updated/replaced. When changes have been made to both the original topic and the topic on the branch users are able to review all changes in a track change view and decide whether to keep or reject changes or maintain two separate topics.
As content repositories grow exponentially each year and content reuse grows more complex, content management challenges are also increasing. XDocs Extended Metadata Module provides a system to help you transform content tags into information operatives that help you retrieve and deliver your content with greater precision.
XDocs Extended Metadata Module allows you to harvest glossary terminology from your DITA directly into XDocs. After the harvest, the Extended Metadata Thesaurus can organize the terms according to your classification structure.
Harvested terms can also be used to Browse and Search through content, and you can associate non DITA files with the terminology.
Software companies are under pressure to get products to market as soon as possible but have many ‘moving parts’ both within the Technical Publications Department and across the company.
The best way to take control of this is to utilise a designated workflow that controls when the various contributors need to be involved, notifies then accordingly and tacks all processes and actions.
The XDocs Workflow Module is based on the BPMN 2.0 industry standard and the de facto standard Activiti workflow engine. XDocs workflow process definitions can be created using other tools or within the system and the potential is limitless.
Subject Matter Expert Contribution
The in-depth product expertise does not reside within the Technical Publications Department, rather it is spread across the organization and multiple roles. Historically binging SMEs into the document production process has often proved difficult, time is tight and there is no appetitive to learn new software. Bluestream XDocs 5.2 introduced WEX – a web-based application that can be used to review, amend and even create DITA content from scratch without the need for any training.
When coupled with XDocs Workflow, SMEs can be notified by email when content needs their attention, clicking on a link will take them onto a web page where functionality mirroring that found in MS Word will let them accept the content, add notes or suggest changes. The easy to use and intuitive interface speeds up the process and once their task is complete the workflow engine advances the project to the next task, for example notifying the originating author that the review has been completed.
Software is used globally, and the documentation needs to reflect this, it is important that the correct documentation can be delivered in the relevant language.
Bluestream XDocs Localization Module can seamlessly handle the entire localization process, creating work packets and moving the content cyclically from the source language through translations and back into the system—localized, link-checked, and ready to be published for a global market.
In today’s modern world it is no longer sufficient to deliver just printed documentation and with a growing move to mobile devices PDFs can become a hindrance more than a help. Users want to be able to find answers to their problems quickly, often preferring a self-service portal over long waits on the telephone. Service Engineers require instant access to the latest documentation delivered to a mobile device. Potential Customers want to see how a product might meet their needs often outside normal office hours and often on a mobile device.
XDocs Knowledge Base is our own dynamic delivery platform and lets you deliver DITA content to multiple devices and platforms including websites and self-service portals. Fully customisable the Knowledge Base can be configured for a wide range of solutions and the content comes directly from the XDocs CCMS. This means there are no conversion processes to run and as soon as content is approved for publication it can instantly be made available.
Unlike some rival systems XDocs Knowledge Base can be fully configured and maintained by Administrators, there is no need to come back to Bluestream every time you want a change.