Automatically generating and updating many similar documents

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R. Diez R. Diez
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Automatically generating and updating many similar documents

Hi all:

A friend of mine writes datasheets and user manuals for many similar
devices with Microsoft Word 2010. Many sections (legalese, company logo,
some device features) are exactly the same across many documents.

Maintaining so many copies of the same text is a pain. If you want to
fix or enhance something, you have to manually update many copies in
many documents. Just to clarify: these are not just short database
fields, but complete text sections with subsections, full formatting, etc.

He has recently learnt about Microsoft Word's {INCLUDETEXT} field. By
pressing F9 (Update Fields), he can update all imported sections in a
document at once.

This mechanism has its limitations. He cannot update all documents at
once. And, although some sections are almost exact copies, some of them
mention the device's model number, which is different in each document.

Perhaps the most severe limitation is that he cannot update styles
across documents at once. If the marketing department decides that all
section titles should be blue, he has no way to change them all
automatically.

What he really needs is some sort of automatic templating system that
can generate or update many documents at once.

I would like for him to move to LibreOffice. But Writer has no such
{INCLUDETEXT} feature, right?

What would be the best way to knock such system together with
LibreOffice? I can write a few scripts or Makefiles if necessary.

My friend is no programmer, and he is not willing to learn some markup
language like AsciiDoc in order to write the documentation. Besides,
other colleagues contribute some text every now and then. They all know
how to use a word processor, but it would not be realistic that all of
them get familiar with something like AsciiDoc.

Thanks in advance,
   R. Diez

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Jean-Francois Nifenecker Jean-Francois Nifenecker
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Re: Automatically generating and updating many similar documents

Hello R.

Le 04/02/2018 à 11:52, R. Diez a écrit :

>
> A friend of mine writes datasheets and user manuals for many similar
> devices with Microsoft Word 2010. Many sections (legalese, company logo,
> some device features) are exactly the same across many documents.
>
> Maintaining so many copies of the same text is a pain. If you want to
> fix or enhance something, you have to manually update many copies in
> many documents. Just to clarify: these are not just short database
> fields, but complete text sections with subsections, full formatting, etc.
>

This is a quite common need. LibO Writer has a helper for that: linked
sections.

In LibO Writer a Section is just that: a text portion which can be set
differently from the other parts of the text. For instance, using a
section allows to have a multi-columns part between full width text parts.

Here, we're using the section links possibilities.

1. Create a new document using Writer and put in it each an every
recurring piece of text. Format that text exactly as you wish it to appear.
2. Enclose each piece of text within its own section:
-- select the text
-- menu Insert > Section
3. Give the section a nameful name and that's it (click Insert).
You notice that the section is surrounded with pale grey lines. When the
cursor is in the section, the status bar shows the section name (on the
right).

Save the document (probably better have it in some fixed place as it
will be used as a reference by the others.)

Let's say its name is RefDoc.odt


Open a document which must contain some text part as the one stored in
RefDoc.odt. Let's call it Target.odt.

Open Target.odt
1. Create an empty section here also.
Put the cursor in some empty paragraph, the Insert > Section
2. Give the section a nameful name
3. Go to the dialog Link area and check Link.
Use the Browse button and select RefDoc.odt created above.
4. In the Section list you see the list of the sections present in
RefDoc.odt. Select the wanted section. Click Insert

You're done! The new Target.odt section now holds the reference text,
including its formatting.

Note that the new section in Target.odt may be password protected. This
might be of interest when manipulating legal documents for instance.


 From now on, any change in the source RefDoc.odt sections text will be
propagated to the linked section of the target documents.


HTH,
--
Jean-Francois Nifenecker, Bordeaux


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steveedmonds steveedmonds
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Re: Automatically generating and updating many similar documents

Thanks so much for that.
This allows me to make abridged (some parts left out) manuals by just
picking the sections I want from a complete manual and all numbering and
table of contents adjusts correctly.

Hmm. Cross references don't necessarily survive.

Steve

On 11/02/18 06:15, Jean-Francois Nifenecker wrote:

> Hello R.
>
> Le 04/02/2018 à 11:52, R. Diez a écrit :
>>
>> A friend of mine writes datasheets and user manuals for many similar
>> devices with Microsoft Word 2010. Many sections (legalese, company logo,
>> some device features) are exactly the same across many documents.
>>
>> Maintaining so many copies of the same text is a pain. If you want to
>> fix or enhance something, you have to manually update many copies in
>> many documents. Just to clarify: these are not just short database
>> fields, but complete text sections with subsections, full formatting,
>> etc.
>>
>
> This is a quite common need. LibO Writer has a helper for that: linked
> sections.
>
> In LibO Writer a Section is just that: a text portion which can be set
> differently from the other parts of the text. For instance, using a
> section allows to have a multi-columns part between full width text
> parts.
>
> Here, we're using the section links possibilities.
>
> 1. Create a new document using Writer and put in it each an every
> recurring piece of text. Format that text exactly as you wish it to
> appear.
> 2. Enclose each piece of text within its own section:
> -- select the text
> -- menu Insert > Section
> 3. Give the section a nameful name and that's it (click Insert).
> You notice that the section is surrounded with pale grey lines. When
> the cursor is in the section, the status bar shows the section name
> (on the right).
>
> Save the document (probably better have it in some fixed place as it
> will be used as a reference by the others.)
>
> Let's say its name is RefDoc.odt
>
>
> Open a document which must contain some text part as the one stored in
> RefDoc.odt. Let's call it Target.odt.
>
> Open Target.odt
> 1. Create an empty section here also.
> Put the cursor in some empty paragraph, the Insert > Section
> 2. Give the section a nameful name
> 3. Go to the dialog Link area and check Link.
> Use the Browse button and select RefDoc.odt created above.
> 4. In the Section list you see the list of the sections present in
> RefDoc.odt. Select the wanted section. Click Insert
>
> You're done! The new Target.odt section now holds the reference text,
> including its formatting.
>
> Note that the new section in Target.odt may be password protected.
> This might be of interest when manipulating legal documents for instance.
>
>
> From now on, any change in the source RefDoc.odt sections text will be
> propagated to the linked section of the target documents.
>
>
> HTH,


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Jean-Francois Nifenecker Jean-Francois Nifenecker
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Re: Automatically generating and updating many similar documents

Hi Steve!

Le 15/02/2018 à 04:40, Steve Edmonds a écrit :
> Thanks so much for that.
> This allows me to make abridged (some parts left out) manuals by just
> picking the sections I want from a complete manual and all numbering and
> table of contents adjusts correctly.
>
> Hmm. Cross references don't necessarily survive.
>

For this need, you should use another trick with sections: hiding
sections according to the context (some variable/user field value). One
single document with several possible outputs.

This is very well described by Bruce Byfield in his book "Designing with
LibreOffice" (see "Hiding with sections", p187 sqq)

http://designingwithlibreoffice.com/

HTH,
--
Jean-Francois Nifenecker, Bordeaux


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