Jake Memery
By:

Jake Memery

Xignal S1000D Product Manager

It’s something that was the norm years ago.

Product engineers would write, or heavily contribute to, the end-user technical documentation that went out of the door to the customer.

Then things evolved and there were dedicated technical publications teams sat within Customer Support departments, in silos, often far away and detached from the system expertise.  The authors in the Tech Pubs team take engineering technical design documents and various other source data, and craft this into correctly structured S1000D technical documentation to meet the contractual delivery requirements.

But interestingly, we are starting to see a shift back to the scenario where engineers are being asked to contribute to technical documentation by writing maintenance procedures and technical descriptions for their equipment which feeds directly into S1000D technical publications.

And why shouldn’t they?

It makes sense to a degree, they are the product or equipment experts after all and they know this stuff inside out.

Why have engineers (whether that be the design engineers, product support engineers, solutions engineers, systems engineers or any other kind of engineer) creating content and data, and then have your technical authors trawling through it, taking what’s appropriate, and rewriting it again in another format?

That’s not to say that ‘proper’ technical authors are not required. Of course they are.

Technical authors know how to write to the contracted specifications, how to structure the publications, how to make the most of data reuse, avoid duplication, redundancy, understand structured languages and technical dictionaries like STE.

You can’t possibly expect engineers to learn all of that on top of their deep domain expertise of the product or system. Far from being redundant, technical authors still have a huge roll to play but we are seeing them re-integrate within engineering departments in Integrated Project Teams as opposed to being annexed into a separate cost centre.

But how does this work in practice?

We know that engineers have deep domain knowledge, but they are unlikely to have the S1000D specification experience or knowledge of XML editing tools needed to create S1000D technical documentation.  So the tools you select to support engineers creating technical documentation can make all the difference between success or failure when integrating engineers in your Technical Publications process.

Can your engineers use MS Word as an S1000D Authoring tool?

If engineers are to contribute more to S1000D tech pubs and create content specifically for the final publications, we need to give them the tools that enable them to produce their data in a format which can easily be integrated into the wider publications.

But in the case of S1000D, how can this work?

We can’t (and actually wouldn’t want to) ask engineers to learn S1000D and XML tools. It would literally be a waste of their time.

With the exception of technical authors, for most, MS Word is still king.  It’s fast, everyone knows how to use it, and it’s on most desktops.

But if our engineers use MS Word to write maintenance procedures, we clearly can’t ensure conformity.  This means that when technical authors receive the data, they don’t have something that they can easily integrate or that has all the information needed for an S1000D Data Module (DM) contained within it.

Because of this, you’ve probably (understandably) ruled out MS Word as being a suitable tool for S1000D content creation.

But what if there was an option in MS Word for engineers to write a document in a simple to use S1000D template that forces them down a route to input all the data for the destination DM, making sure it contains things like the required tooling or spares to do the maintenance procedure for example.

Then, what if your engineers could save that MS Word .doc as S1000D XML, with correct DMC coding, elements and attributes populated, illustration numbers assigned etc, where it could be imported into your S1000D CSDB, and your technical authors could do any final work to ensure consistency and conformity.

Imagine how much time that could save!

With the Xignal S1000D for Word Add-in, YES, your engineers can use MS Word as an S1000D Authoring tool.

The Word Add-in provides easy S1000D authoring and XML DM output functionality from within MS Word.   It’s designed for engineers or other non S1000D XML skilled resources who want, or need, to directly contribute to technical publications without having to train them up on XML authoring tools and the S1000D specification.

It’s a simple Add-in for MS Word which means you can streamline your technical documentation process without anyone installing or learning new authoring tools and it works on all desktop versions of MS Word.

So, if like us, you are seeing a rise in engineering departments taking more of an active role in technical publications content creation, feel free to download the Add-in and use it for one month with no commitment to purchase after.

Complete the form below to download the S1000D Add-in or contact us for more information.

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Considering smarter ways of authoring and collaborating with S1000D? Please get in touch.