tself's blog

Self on Help

Thoughts from the OASIS DITA Help Subcommittee Chair

Parallel Documentation Universes

Until a few weeks ago, I was unaware that there was a company employing some 200 technical writers just two kilometres from where I teach technical communication in Melbourne, Australia.  Likewise, a manager at the company was unaware that my university provided post-graduate education in technical communication. We were operating in two parallel universes. The company involved operates in the "engineering technical publications" field, which seems to be quite separate (and isolated) from the "IT and corporate technical communication" field.

Read more

"Airplane Help"

"Airplane Help" describes a technique whereby locally installed Help and server-based Help are integrated, so that a software application user is presented with server Help if he or she has an Internet connection, or local Help if not. The advantage of this approach is that the most current version of the Help is displayed if possible, but at least some form of Help is displayed when the user is "offline". Can DITA play a role in delivering Airplane Help?

Read more


In earlier musings about full-text search, I wondered whether the lack of full-text search (FTS) in the standard DITA OT XHTML outputs was restrictive. Bob Doyle pointed out that Eclipse Help InfoCenters provide FTS, and that led to some further wonderings about the complexity of Eclipse Help installations. I've since noticed some DITA users have come up with some ingenius workarounds so that DITA content can be turned into beautiful "WebHelp" output just like that produced by HTML-based Help Authoring Tools.

Read more

Typing Users

When I started as a technical writer, in the pre-PC days, most work was in what was called the engineering field. I mainly worked with aircraft manuals, but also with manuals relating to other engineering areas, such as buses, ships, and buildings. We produced hand-written manuscripts, which were typed, reviewed, typeset, laid out, reviewed, and finally printed.

Read more

DITA Help Subcommittee Meeting

The first teleconference meeting of the DITA Help subcommittee was held on Thursday/Friday last week. (That's Thursday in the US and Europe, and Friday in Australia and Asia.) The group has excellent experience across a broad range of fields, but all have in common an enthusiasm to make DITA a viable Help authoring environment. The first meeting broadly discussed goals and scope, but from now on we have to become more focussed on the actions we need to take!

XML.org Focus Areas: BPEL | DITA | ebXML | IDtrust | OpenDocument | SAML | UBL | UDDI
OASIS sites: OASIS | Cover Pages | XML.org | AMQP | CGM Open | eGov | Emergency | IDtrust | LegalXML | Open CSA | OSLC | WS-I