Single Sourcing Using Microsoft OLE Linking

Single sourcing is the ability to produce both hard copy (paper) and online (WinHelp) documentation from one set of files. When these different types of presentation are produced correctly, the resulting products have significant differences in layout, indexing, and writing style. Due to these differences, single sourcing rarely meets the needs of either deliverable.

This document details a new approach to documentation creation and maintenance using OLE linking in Word to single source the text for RTF and DOC files. This approach requires a particular stylistic as well as technical approach to your documents to address the unique qualities of each type of documentation and easily facilitate the linking process.

OLE Single Sourcing Advantages

Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) is a field in Microsoft products used to actively link content from one file to another. This technique allows you to maintain your text in one file or location, even though the text may appear in numerous places. Changes made to the original text are propagated throughout all of the linked documents.

OLE links allow you to single source documentation by preserving your text from RTF to DOC even though the layout and structure of the two files may be completely different. The advantages to this approach include, but are certainly not limited to, the following:

  1. Takes advantage of the features of both forms of delivery, making both sets of documentation more powerful.
  2. Provides a single source in which to maintain changes and additions to your text.
  3. Provides a relatively simple and quick process to convert to DOC format.
  4. Keeps links, browse sequences, and index entries - these items do not need to be recoded at each conversion.
  5. Encourages maintenance of graphics in a single location that minimizes corruption and cross-compatibility issues.
  6. Forces streamlining and task orientation of text.
  7. Prevents awkward placement index entries, page breaks and browse sequences that often happens when DOC files are converted to RTF files.
  8. Enhances both sets of documentation by enabling a more rigorous standard.
  9. Produces documentation that can easily be ported to HTML or XML based format.
  10. Allows you to quickly create a copy of your HLP file as a DOC file that can be sent for developer review.

The following pages explain the approach, procedures, and background knowledge required to make this conversion simple and successful. The ease with which this procedure can be carried out relies on the writer’s willingness and ability to approach the entire document from a new standpoint - one that will improve the documentation and streamline maintenance issues.

What These Pages Provide

These pages provide basic information on how to use OLE linking to single source your DOC and RTF files. A more complete and detailed document, including examples and files, is available here. To get the zip file (approx. 400KB), right-click on the link and select "Save As". For more information on the person who developed this technique, see Rebecca Sukach

A presentation on this technique will be given at Help '99, from November 1-4, 1999 in Dallas, Texas. In addition to the riveting presentation on OLE, this conference provides a stellar lineup of 75+ sessions, seminars, interactive round tables, lively panel discussions and step-by-step tutorials. For registration information, check out their website or call 1-800-801-HELP.

Creating/Preparing Your RTF File
Details the methods and approach used to create a solid base document for linking
Creating Your DOC File
Details the process of exporting the text in your RTF file into an OLE linked DOC file
Maintaining Your Document
Details the process of maintaining your RTF and DOC files with a minimum of effort and error

For more information, feel free to email me!
Rebecca Sukach
Lewisville, TX
United States

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