Moving Large Documents to the Web | 3 | WebReference

Moving Large Documents to the Web | 3

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Moving Large Documents to the Web

Conversion/Production

Large-scale document conversion is like needing a general contractor who comes with every tool and gadget in the back of his or her truck. A variety of HTML, Web programming and graphics tools are needed. Our team has converted thousands of pages of written materials using Adobe's FrameMaker. Framemaker has style formatting, pagination technology, cross-referencing and character formats that create consistency and global control of styles. Framemaker preserves a printing option and can save a copy as an Acrobat .pdf file. Once the Framemaker content is chunked, organized and cross referenced, Quadralay's WebWorks Publisher tool is used to convert the docs to HTML, DHTML, JavaHelp, WinHelp, WebHelp, Microsoft HTML Help, XHTML and XML. WebWorks Publisher's use of cascading styles sheet technology is excellent. The code generated by WebWorks is not lean but it is formatted for easy editing.

Specifically, the Framemaker/WebWorks combination can take a document (or book as Framemaker calls a multi-file doc) of over a hundred pages and convert it to a framed DHTML site with a formatted TOC and a hyperlink index in less than fifteen minutes. The Framemaker styles are mapped as HTML tags. For Web developers, WebWorks style designer can be modified with standard HTML code for custom styling. WebWorks also can generate search functions, bookmaking and cascading TOC's using Java applets and JavaScript.

The best use of conversion tools is for moving the bunk of the content to Web formats. Once the dozens of HTML, XML or .pdf files are generated, the project moves to other Web authoring tools to add graphical interfaces, interactive components, or custom scripting. Our team uses Macromedia's Flash, Fireworks and Dreamweaver to change an online software manual into a reference Website that includes JavaScript behaviors, Flash simulations and image maps that improve usability of the information.

Adobe's Acrobat 3 and 4 have excellent search and navigation functionality built directly into the .pdf reader. Documents that must be sent via the Web and maintain a printing option are good candidates for .pdf. Framemaker comes with a .pdf distiller built in to the application.

Maintenance

I agree with Jeffrey Zeldman (alistapart.com) who writes that "link rot" and maintenance are two of the toughest challenges facing Web developers. In the case of large document conversion sites, maintenance is tougher because of the magnitude of content that can change due to outside sources.

Information that frequently changes is best kept in the formats generated by the conversion tools without customization. This allows you to update that information and upload it as frequently as needed. Set up a system where content editors or SME's make all updates in digital formats. Our organization gives Framemaker to personnel who have the content expertise. The files are sent to the Web developers who convert it to the Web. Large doc sites need designated personnel to maintain the sites; especially with content that changes on regularly scheduled intervals (financial prospectuses, government documents, medical technology research, etc.).

Developers who are successful in redeveloping documents to the Web are helping move users toward real time Web media for all their information needs.

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About the author: Coming from the instructional design, help authoring and freelance CBT worlds, Rick Diehl combines aspects of multimedia, information design and Web development to produce e-learning solutions. His current role is as an instructional Web designer at Allmerica Financial in Massachusetts. Corporate training sites and non-profit organization sites are both included in his portfolio . Rick's spare time is spent with his family and taking digital photographs. Rick can be contacted at rdiehl@allmerica.com.

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Created: February 2, 2001
Revised: February 5, 2001

URL: http://webreference.com/authoring/design/information/large/