Saturday, December 16, 2006

Conditional Text

We have moved to a new Satellite TV provider some time back. It is time to pay the quarterly bill, so I dug up their manual to look for online payment options. Sure enough there was a section on "Internet payments". I opened the section and it had one line. "For Internet payment options click here"!! How the hell am I supposed to click on a paper?

The reason for the line is simple enough, they are just distributing printed copies of their online documentation.

I shared this with couple of friends and the discussion soon turned to the issues with maintaining multiple versions of the same document. I figured out soon enough that they have not heard about conditional text supported in most DTP software. I was in the Dev team for Adobe FrameMaker and it was one of the features in the product. It works very much like the following C* kind of code


#if Web
Console.WriteLine("Click <a href=\"http://www.abhinaba.com\">Here</a>");
#elif Doc
Console.WriteLine("Visit http://www.abhinaba.com");
#endif

If the symbol WEB is defined then the fancy Click Here is printed else the URL is printed out. Conditional Content works very much like this. You can define document wide variables and associate text, images (any supported content) with these variables. Later you switch on/off one or more of these variables to print out various versions of the same doc. So all your common content remains common and you have the ability to pick/select from the rest.

No idea if Office supports this. But with the powerful collaboration features supported in Word, I highly suspect that this is indeed supported.

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