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What is single source publishing?

Single Source Publishing is a methodto create reusable content in a systematic way. The information is set up in modules and compiled for subsequent use in a variety of formats. Using this method therefore alters the entire documentation compilation procedure used by the Technical Editorial team. Whereas in other contexts, documents are compiled by chapter and the document is produced on a chapter-by-chapter basis, this system is actually based upon modules.

The following aspects are of relevance:

  • Modular creation of content
    Modules may be used in several different output formats simultaneously. The modules are stand-alone and exist independently of the layout. The layout is not applied until later.
  • Re-use of content
    Re-usable content can be used in a large number of different forms. Content and form are separate: During the compilation process, editors concentrate on documenting the technical aspects. No formatting work is carried out.
  • Compilation of documents
    Documents are created by linking together a number of individual modules. An editing system includes functions that enable modular content to be converted into a variety of output formats, such as online help texts and operating instructions.

Why is Single Source Publishing a sensible option?

The benefits of Single Source Publishing are as follows:

  • It saves time and money
    If content is re-used in various documents, it will save time during compilation. Content will no longer be compiled in duplicate or more times than that. Content will be translated into the target language only once.
  • Consistency of content
    The re-use of content helps to ensure the consistency of content. The quality of your content will improve.
  • Many editors working on a single document
    If content is no longer tied up in documents and hidden in the filing system, but exists in the form of modules in a database, any number of authors can produce modules at the same time and put them together to form documents. "My document" becomes "our content".

How does Single Source Publishing work?

A pre-requisite for the use of the Single Source Publishing Method is for the content to be compiled in the form of modules. To that end, information classes or information types are developed during the planning stage of the Technical Documentation, as a means of classifying the content. In many cases, for example, operating instructions and descriptive modules are created. All other classes or types are heavily dependent on the Technical Documentation to be compiled or on the output formats involved. Once this initial preparation has been completed, the content is structured and created within the modules of the editing system. In the final stage, the documents are compiled and published.

Example: Re-using the Releasenote information class using the Single Source Publishing method

A Releasenote occurs in the operating manual, in the online help and in the training documentation. Each individual releasenote was created in the Releasenote module and stored in a suitable location within the editing system. When the operating manual is created, the editor links the releasenote from the database. The releasenotes are displayed in the document, but will remain in the database as source material. Training materials also set out to inform participants about new functionalities. Once again, the editor takes a previously prepared module and links it to the document.

The way in which the re-use of modules in the operating manual operates in precise terms will depend on the editing system.