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Blown Away by Author-it Aspect

by Tom Johnson on Aug 18, 2011
categories: technical-writing

Author-it Aspect
Author-it Aspect

My colleagues and I were talking the other day about where we're going to publish some help content. The scenario we're addressing is a project that will be translated into 38 separate languages. Additionally, there are 28 roles for the system. This means there would potentially be 1,064 outputs (38 x 28), assuming help is to be specific to each user's language and role. This is a tremendous amount of material to generate and keep track of, and the thought of it overwhelms me.

We're implementing Author-it in my organization, and one of the technical leads showed us Author-it Aspect. Apparently this tool would allow us to publish all the content in the same output. Then through the user's profile, he or she would see the help material that is relevant to his or her role and language. Rather than 1064 outputs, we'd have just one.

Here's the demo that my colleague showed us. It's a recorded webinar that I'm reposting here with Author-it's permission.

Author-it Aspect Demo
This is the demo of Author-it Aspect. Watch about the first 5 min.

You'll see that you can select options to see different views into the content. My understanding is that through an Author-it Aspect API, you can configure the views to your user's profile (assuming the user logs in). Otherwise, if not logged in, the user would select the view from the Options menu. But here's the point: it's all the same help file. There aren't hundreds of different help outputs to coordinate behind the scenes.

This seems like much needed technology that would simplify a lot of robust publishing situations. Granted, I think Aspect requires its own server and is somewhat costly, but the time it would save in managing the content might be worth it. Is anyone out there using Author-it Aspect? I'd love to hear about your experience.

For more information, see Author-it Aspect.

8/26 update: I recently learned that Aspect doesn't support multiple languages as variants. This functionality won't be available until version 6.0 of Author-it is released (within a few months).

About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm an API technical writer based in the Seattle area. On this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, AI, information architecture, content strategy, writing processes, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation course if you're looking for more info about documenting APIs. Or see my posts on AI and AI course section for more on the latest in AI and tech comm.

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