Test connectivity to the WebWorks licensing server from within ePublisher.
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WebWorks is an Austin-based company. We have been here for over 20 years. I am a native Texan. I have lived here all my life. I was in Dallas during the heat wave of 1980—a 42-day string of high temperatures over 100 degrees. You could literally fry an egg on the sidewalk for breakfast. So let me tell you, when I got off the plane in Phoenix and said, “Damn, it’s pretty hot,” it was hot.
It was hot and beautiful, and the perfect setting for STC Summit 2014. I took all the precautions with my crew. “Drink plenty of water,” I told them. In heat like that, water is evaporated right out of your skin. It doesn’t hurt to mix a little Scotch in with that water. I am a Gin man myself, but we were talking survival here. Lucky for us, the conference was going to be another huge success.
I think for me, this conference started off better than any other had before. We were staying at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Phoenix, and inside the hotel, there is a restaurant named Networks. Doug Pocius is the beverage manager there—go in and say hi if you get a chance—and the food is fantastic. I met Kent on the first day, and we started talking normal hotel restaurant talk, like, “Hey, what you doing in town?” “Where are you from?” “No sir, it is not that kind of hotel.” Just the typical small talk. Kent was telling me what he does outside of working at the hotel, and we had a very interesting conversation. He told me about his band and the different sound equipment he uses while they are performing. I asked him if he ever used the manual on any of those, and he said, “The manuals just aren’t convenient for me, so I just pretty much figure it out on my own.” He explained what was convenient for him was forums and just word of mouth. He said, “You know, the manuals probably have all that information, but it is not easy to find. I mean, use the terms I am familiar with, or put it on my phone. It is easier for me to look stuff up on my phone.” I told him that was great feedback, and I was heading into a building where a lot of smart people were going to figure out how to give him exactly what he wants. Kent seemed to appreciate that, and really that is what it is all about: making our audience happy.
So, with Kent’s feedback in mind, I hit the conference. The first day was fast for me and the team. Jack and Lauren headed to the exhibition floor with our channel partner, Georg Eck from SQUIDDS. Georg’s team has developed tools and a workflow for the most advanced mobile delivery system I have ever seen, but I will have to get to that later. The Phoenix Convention Center is just a fun place to be. It looks modern, bright, and new. Walking in just got my blood pumping and made me glad I came.
I gave my first presentation at 9:45. It was titled “How to Get What You Want, When You Need It.” I have been on the presentation circuit for a while, and I have seen some fantastic presentations. We all talk about building the importance of documentation and how we can improve workflows, systems, and content to increase value. It had dawned on me that we really have not spent a lot of time teaching technical communicators how to pitch these fantastic ideas so they can get upper management approval, or as I like to call it, “buy in.” So I went through a five-step process on how to position those ideas to give the best opportunity for buy in. Before you ask, no there are no slides for that presentation. One of the skills you need to pitch your ideas is that of listening. You also have to be the one to start the conversation, so for my presentation, I told the audience they would not have any slides and would have to practice their listening skills while we were going through the presentation. I also stated, “Without any references, you are going to have to ask questions in the presentation. Let’s get you talking, because this is a conversation you are going to have to start.” I think it went well.
My second presentation was with Bernard Aschwanden from Publishing Smarter. We talked about having a revenue-generating mindset when developing content. Bernard has been in the business for a while, and as a consultant has helped a lot of companies look at their content with that mindset. The two of us on stage offered a lot of useful information, and a lot of entertainment. I really like presenting with Bernard; we have similar styles, and even though we get detoured, the trip is well worth it.
Monday night was karaoke night. That is pretty much all I remember about Monday night, and I have been told all pictures have been destroyed. This is just one of those reasons why it benefits people to actually attend STC.
Tuesday started off with as much energy as Monday. That is one of my favorite things about STC Summit. Everyone is excited to be there. There were a lot of first timers, and tons of them came by the booth to see Jack and Lauren. We are launching a new product this year, CloudDrafts, and we were giving sneak previews at the booth—another benefit to attending in person. CloudDrafts is a collaborative management system. We understand there are a lot of collaborative tools out there, but none of them are really designed for technical communication workflows or have the management features needed to run projects with a team.
The next presentation we attended was Jack Molisani’s “Monetizing Your Content.” Good, good presentation with some charts that will blow your mind. If you didn’t go, I would recommend getting on the STC website and getting a pass for those presentations: http://www.stc.org/education/technical-communications-summit/summit-at-a-click
The last conference presentation for me was with Georg Eck, our German Channel Partner. Georg was presenting his case study with Bihler. The case study solved a multi-device publishing problem Bihler was having. Bihler makes these huge stamping machines. They range anywhere from 500 to 2 mil Euros. On all of these machines is a touch screen used to control and adjust the machine itself. It is also used to display the help manuals when requested. Like my friend Kent, the technicians that were working on these machines did not find it convenient to switch back and forth from a control panel and PDF on the same display. It was actually very unproductive. Georg and his team came up with a workflow that could deliver the manuals to a mobile device that the technicians carry with them—any device the technician prefers. All the technician has to do is walk up to the machine that needs service. On the machine are individual QR codes. The technician scans the QR code with his/her mobile device, and the correct manual for service loads. Bihler loved the results. They showed the workflow off at a conference, and they increased new sales by 2%. Next year, they are outfitting their entire sales team with iPads so they can show the workflow in their demos. What a way to end a conference, with a case study that showed just how important and revenue centric documentation can be. I didn’t think it could get any better, but I had forgotten about the awards show that night.
The last night of the conference always includes the awards show. Deserving recipients collect awards for achievements they earned throughout the year. The Society of Technical Communication recognizes exemplary performance on the national as well as the local level. It is a well-deserved banquet, and yes everyone cuts loose and has some fun. Here is a quick video: 2014 STC Summit Awards
It was an awesome Summit, and again, I am glad we were there as presenters, exhibitors, and attendees. If you have any questions or want to know more about where we are going next, just email me at email@example.com.
DITA North America this year was held in the sunny city of Seattle. Now I know that sounds a little funny at first, especially if you are familiar with Seattle, but the weather was fantastic. I had been to Seattle once before to visit Boeing. If you have never been, you can see when first arriving that Seattle is a true industrial harbor.
Warehouses and cranes edge up right to the water line just thirsty for work. Every time I see the cranes for moving goods on and off the ships, they remind me of large metal orange giraffes—moving slowly but gracefully, never stopping until the job is done. That view with the mountains in the backdrop just really makes Seattle one of the most unique places to fly in to.
Another thing that made DITA North America special for me this year was having Bernard Aschwanden in the WebWorks booth. I think the message is finally getting out that if you use the Open Tool Kit to generate output, you need to be looking at ePublisher. That generated a lot of traffic to the booth, and even though we are the experts when it comes to generating output from DITA, Bernard is a guru when it comes to transitioning to DITA or improving your current DITA process. I thought it would be good for attendees to have someone to talk to about their situation and offer help when needed. It was a huge hit for the attendees, although Bernard and I almost didn’t make it to the conference.
Bernard’s flight was delayed, so I called the hotel to let them know we were checking in a little late. Suzanne from Vasont Systems, a good friend and awesome partner with WebWorks, was kind enough to wait with me in the airport. I was telling Suzanne that every phone call I’d had with The Westin about our reservations had seemed a little odd, starting when I called back in March to book our rooms. She said, “Give me an example.” I told her we asked for a suite with two king beds, and they replied that they could put the request in the notes, but they couldn’t guarantee it so far out. I thought that was a little odd since we were only a month away. When I called from the airport, I asked about the room, and they had the same non-committal attitude. I was a little concerned.
Bernard finally hit Tecoma International, and we headed to The Westin. Upon our arrival, they could not find our reservation. I was ready, because of my sense of impending doom, and I threw down our confirmation number. Type, Type, Type on the keyboard and AHA! He found us. Unfortunately, the reservation was made for April 27th of 2015. I just said no. The front desk attendant looked at me with a blank face, not understanding. He was still smiling, but the word “no” seemed out of place to him, as though he were not sure how to interpret my use of it.
I then said, “Who calls in a hotel reservation and gives the year? You say, I would like to make a reservation for April the 27th, or May the 21st, but never Tuesday, March 22nd of 2024. It just doesn’t make any sense.” What did make sense to me finally were all the previous conversations: “We can’t guarantee that, sir, this far in advance.” Never did it dawn on me that they assumed we were making a reservation for next year. After presenting my argument, the front desk agreed, and this is where customer service and customer experience has made me a loyal Westin traveler. They hooked us up with the best possible room.
The view overlooked the harbor I love, and Bernard and I could not believe our favor.
I often say that content can be the most pivotal asset to a company’s continued success. The informed consumer demands information before they make a purchase. The reason is they understand the benefits of being informed. Companies understand that retaining customers is what generates revenue. Let me put those fragmented thoughts together. Upsets come from two things: miscommunications, or expectations that were not realized. Both are what caused my upset at the front desk.
At that point, the staff had to exceed my expectations to deliver a positive customer experience. They don’t always have the ability to do that. If that suite had not been available, or if a room were not available, then I would have left and never returned. As a business, you don’t want to have to scramble at that moment to “fix” things. Informed consumers want to make sure they do not experience an upset, so they do their research before making a purchase. They want to look at content and have a full understanding of what is available and how solutions will be able to deliver to their needs. If they do not get the information, they will not even consider the solution for purchase. This has increased the value of documentation, good documentation, and increased the importance of access before the purchase. Every technical communicator should be aware of this and build strategies around it.
On to the conference. We did an unofficial survey of the presentations. Basically, we went into the rooms and counted the number of attendees. The big winner happened on the first day: An Overview of DITA 1.3, by Kristen James Eberlein.
It had by far the largest attendance, and a really good presentation by Kris showing the new items in the DITA 1.3 standard. You can find the bullet points and short description of the presentation here: http://www.cm-strategies.com/2014/abstracts.htm#Eberlein
One thing to keep in mind: JoAnn Hakos has been running this conference for a while. She has been involved with the DITA movement from the beginning. This conference has a lot of high-level presentations. There are some really smart people out there talking about DITA and where it should go as a standard. If you are new to the idea of DITA, you can catch yourself up here: https://www.oasis-open.org/committees/tc_home.php?wg_abbrev=dita. This is one of the groups that keep tabs on the standard, and you can get updates from the OASIS site. Now if you do a search on DITA, do not get confused if your search results come up with an attractive woman who looks a little like this:
This is actually Dita Vonteese, who is an American burlesque dancer, model, costume designer, entrepreneur, and just about anything else you can imagine. She is also more famous than Darwin Information Typing Architecture, and due to the nature of her profession, some photos are NSFW. So be careful when doing your research. She is a nice lady, and I actually met her at DITA Europe.
If you are wondering about the beard, it was Movember.
Ok, where was I? Yes, so if you are looking to get up to speed on DITA, follow some of those links and be cautious when searching. There are a lot of benefits to DITA, and it deserves a look. I think the biggest obstacle for people is knowing where to start. You don’t have to figure it out on your own. Conferences like DITA North America and organizations like The Center for Information-Development Management are great places to gather some information. Consultants like Bernard Aschwanden over at Publishing Smarter can actually come in and help you get started, or refine your process. WebWorks can provide the systems you need to implement the content strategies you decide are best for your environment. ePublisher is by far the best tool to convert DITA source into value output for your audience. CloudDrafts is a collaboration management system that helps you control the chaos of team projects and still allows you to pick the tools that best fit your needs. If you want more information on our systems or any of these resources, just contact us.
Tomorrow I am doing ePublisher 101 again, and while the registration ends 2 days, you can still sign up by contacting Jack Newman about purchasing this. This training is ideal for people just getting into ePublisher, but also for experienced users who don’t really understand why you should use ePublsher Express, as well as other questions such as: Why the heck do you need the Reports? Why is there a .base folder in my Stationery directory? Who is the best audience for Stationery? Come find out tomorrow! The training comes with a manual and exercises, but is also informal enough to allow for questions, if you have any. Hope to see you there!
Can’t make it tomorrow? You can still sign up through our Eventbrite page to register for the session on the 31st
I will be taking over the training for the introductory ePublisher classes. You can find out more information here:
This course is ideal for those who are just starting out with ePublisher and want to get into the ins and outs of using the Designer interface. I will go over our workflow as well as reasons to use Express and Stationery. Registration is limited to 15 participants so be sure to sign up before the class gets filled! Hope to “see” you Friday. 🙂
One of the easiest things in ePublisher to modify is the company information. In fact, you can do it with just four steps in Reverb:
- Go to the the Reverb target that you have created and then go to Target -> Target Settings
- Expand the Company Information pane and then click the in the Value column to add the values* you want
- Once you are satisfied with the information, click OK to go back to the ePublisher UI
- Click the three gears to generate the output and then you will see the changes
If you are working with WebWorks Help 5.0 for example, and you want to specify further the top or bottom alignment, we can do this by using the Style Designer’s Page Styles
- Navigate to the Style Designer by clicking the icon or using the Menu bar and then navigate to the Page Styles in the middle column
- Click on the Default in the list and then click on the Options Pane toward the right
- Let’s choose a Top/Right alignment, so select Enabled for Company info displayed at top and Right for Company info top alignment for the options
- Click the triple gears to generate all and notice then notice changes from clicking the output Output Explorer**
There you go, easy as pie. Please comment if there are any specific topics you would like to be simplified in the Newbies series.
*If you want to add a logo, you will need to have it placed in the Files directory. Go to View -> User Files to have it placed in the Windows Explorer so it can be easily accessed by our generation process
**You may have it already configured to view the output automatically, and that is cool, too!
I am taking a break from my Newbies series this week to present a cool feature of which you may or may not be aware. Drumroll please: using the URL bar to search Reverb. It is simple, you type in your URL, in this case, I am going to to use our own help to do this, and we are going to search for the term “othermeta” for our DITA friends:
To search this term, you can type in the following:
When you hit return, it will bring up the Google search results. (If you are using the Client-side search or IIS, it will show those results). For testing on your own help that you have generated, please keep in mind that this will need to be deployed to a web server or using IIS to work. If you do not have your http://localhost yet set up, you can actually use our “View Output” button to display a preview in your browser that will let you view the URL:
and from there you can use the #search/yoursearch term feature as addressed above to search the help in this manner. Let me know in the comments what your experiences using this functionality have been.
Part of any great help system is a Table of Contents (TOC) to help the user navigate through the topics. In this exercise we are going to use the project that we created from the last lesson, but add some navigability to the Reverb output by adding levels to our output. Let’s begin!
1. Open up the WEP project that you previously created by using the Windows Explorer when you go to File -> Open, or by using the Recent Projects panel in the Start Page
2. Click on the first FM file again, right click and then click Display Preview
3. Click on the very first heading in the preview window and then the Style Designer will appear in the bottom as shown:4. You will see that the level is automatically set to Auto-TOC* but for the purposes of this demonstration we are setting the Table of Contents level to 1
5. Notice again that when when change something in the Options pane, that this also makes the paragraph style bold to indicate that a change has been made
6. Repeat the steps to give Heading 1 a level of 2 and Heading 2 a level of 3
7. Save the project and click the generate all 3 gears located on the toolbar
8. Now your output should look something like this:
9. It looks good except that because this is a web output we don’t really need to have the chapter numbering. Never fear, ePublisher has a way to fix that as well.
10. Going back to the Options panel for each of the Paragraph Styles in the Style Designer locate the Keep paragraph numbering and the Keep paragraph numbering in TOC dropdowns
11. We are going to set both of those to Disabled and we are going to repeat this for all 3 paragraph styles we modified
12. Save and generate and now the output should look like this:
*If you are wanting more in-depth coverage of what the Auto-TOC entails, please refer to the documentation link or join one of our training sessions
Our documentation provides a lot of good information for those of you who have been working with ePublisher and want to get specific information about a topic, but admittedly it can be a bit overwhelming, so I thought I would try to distill this information for a quick-start guide in using ePublisher. By no means is this a comprehensive guide, for that we offer training.
Lesson 1 – Creating and Modifying a Designer Project
1. Go to File -> New. This will bring up the following window:
2. You can chose whatever name you want for the Project and the Target (covered more in depth by training). This window also lets you choose what kind of Format you want to use, for the purposes of this demonstration, we are going to use WebWorks Reverb (which, by the way is the output that our documentation uses). Click Next
3. Click Add put source files for this document. For the purposes of this demonstration, we are going to use FrameMaker:
3. In the next window, we are going to navigate to the following directory:
C:Users[yourusername]DocumentsePublisher Express ProjectsSourceAdobe Framemaker
4. We are going to add the book file located in this folder. Click the Open button to add this file, and then you are going to click the Finish button on the next screen.
5. Now you will see something like this in the Document Manager:
6. With the first document selected, as you see in the above image, Go to Project -> Display Preview and you will select the “Heading_1” style by clicking “About the Sample Exploring ePublisher Source Documents (FrameMaker)” paragraph style. Again more in depth coverage of this is done in training:
7. We are going to change the color of this heading by going to Text -> Color in the Style Designer pictured below Notice that now the Text heading is bolded, this indicates that we have made a change to something in the Style Designer:
8. You can actually see the changes by clicking the green Refresh Preview button on the top corner:
9. For the purposes of this small demonstration, we are going to generate with just heading 1’s changed, Go to the 3 blue gears in the toolbar to do a generation:
10. Once you click this, you will see logs that will indicate that you are generating and then you may get a message like this, go ahead and click Yes, and you can also select this message not to come up again as pictured below
11. Once you click yes you should be able to view the output and it will look like this when you click the right navigation button on the top.
12. Click File -> Save to save your project for the next lesson
So, this was a very basic example of output that is possible from our sample source files. Right now we have navigation in our Reverb output, but we do not have a table of contents, breadcrumbs or any other bells and whistles that Reverb offers. In the following lessons, I will go over how to get cool features and settings in the output, but for now I hope this gives you a good starting point.
To round out the series of blogs for our reverb customizations, we are going to go back to the default Reverb style. This is the one that most of you are familiar with probably because it has been with us for the longest time, and kudos to anyone who has been customizaing with this since the beginning as well! We are going to focus this week on getting the icons fully customized. For the purposes of this demonstration, we are going to use Fireworks because that is what our customizable icon palette is based from. So, right now we are starting from the customized CSS of the toolbar. As you can see, I have made the gradients a little bit lighter as to contrast that the button is being moused over, but really there are no limits to the colors you can put on the gradients or type of gradients as discussed in my previous post
If you were to mouse over these icons in their non-customized state, they would appear a blue color. To fix this, we need to double-click the skin.Fireworks.png under Advanced -> Manage Format Customizations and in the File explorer under Pages -> Images. Now we open this file in Fireworks. Here is a screengrab of how my environment looks in Fireworks:
This background was set manually so that I would have a better idea of how these icons will look with modifications. In Fireworks, I set this by going to Modify -> Canvas -> Canvas Color and manually put in the CD0074 value after clicking the custom radio button. Alternatively, you can go to Properties and select the transparencies there. Remember if you set this, you will need to set it back to transparent when you are saving as the skin.png.
So, now we get to change our icons. We are focusing on the left-hand group as the right-hand group is meant for the compact styles. As a guide to which icons correspond to which behavior, the left-most group is the button unhovered. The middle (by default blue) are the buttons hovered, and the right group is the clicked or selected group. So, let’s get a little crazy and change the normal buttons to black, the hover buttons to neon green and make no changes to the selected group. While making the changes, you will notices that there is actually a 4th column to the right on the arrows. This is actually to indicate that there there is no more navigation back or forward. For this button, I decide to make it a faded pink to go along with my theme. I personally use the brightness/contrast, or the hue/saturation controls to adjust the colors and do a multiple select so that it gets applied to all the icons evenly:
Now, you go back to the transparent background, and then save as the skin.png (which will overwrite your default, so say OK when it asks you to) and then you you can refresh the Skin.html window and your newly changed icons will be visible:
There are a few more customizations I could do in this project, but I hope you get a good idea through CSS and the image modification of what I can do. For further reading on how we used one image to create the background for the whole menubar and TOC, you can refer to CSS and sprites here, here and here. Files are uploaded to the Wiki Page so you can test with this yourself (all files are in the 2013.1 version)