May 10, 2017
3 Common Tech Writer Headaches that Skribenta Solves
Working as a Skribenta consultant isn’t the simplest job in the world, but it is a lot of fun. Everyday, I discover new possibilities within the system that make life easier for technical writers. My role is to understand our customers’ challenges, then identify the most optimal solutions and customizations that both simplify the job of the tech writer and minimize all the boring manual work which often leads to human mistakes.
In my ten years working closely with tech writers, I’ve grown familiar with the kinds of challenges or “headaches” that often pop up, and equally familiar with how effectively Skribenta solves them. Here are a few examples…
Headache #1: Manually renaming all the output files for different product variants, brands, editions, languages, and file formats
Output files are typically presented to the world via a Content Management System (CMS), and the CMS expects the output files to adhere to some kind of naming scheme. Even Skribenta has a default naming scheme for output files, but it’s rarely the one that’s wanted. So tech writers have been forced to manually rename all the files—certainly an extremely boring and error prone activity.
Luckily, Skribenta has an Output File Name function which lets you set up a custom name scheme definition. A definition might look like this:
Which translates to a file output name such as:
This simple, yet very flexible, function entirely eliminates the manual job of renaming hundreds of files.
Headache #2: Ensuring accurate units of measurement post translation
A unit of measurement, like temperature, is different depending on the language or market. As an example, some markets use Celsius and some use Fahrenheit. And in some cases, both units of measurement need to be included.
The sentence "The water temperature is 40 °C." could be translated to:
"The water temperature is 104 °F (40 °C)” on the US market,
"The water temperature is 40 °C (104 °F)" on the French Canadian market
"水的溫度是攝氏40度" on the Chinese market
How on earth can you expect the translation agency to handle all these cases accurately? If you have different temperatures, do you have to translate them again and let the translator do the mathematical conversion?
Luckily, Skribenta has a Unit Conversion function. By surrounding the temperature (specified in Celsius, for example) with a unit phrase tag, Skribenta converts the temperature according to a Unit Format Specification.
First, the conversion from a FromValue to the wanted unit is specified with formulas:
ToCelsius = FromValue ToFahrenheit = (FromValue * 1.8) + 32
Then, the format specifications for the different markets are defined:
Default: ToCelsius °C en-us: ToFahrenheit °F (ToCelius °C) fr-ca: ToCelsius °C (ToFahrenheit °F) zh-tw: 攝氏ToCelsius度
Whenever Skribenta is transforming a sentence to an output format in a particular language or market, it automatically handles the conversion and layout of the unit.
As a consequence, the translation agency will only translate a generic sentence:
“The water temperature is SomeTemperature.” Meaning you will only pay for the translation once, even if different temperatures are appearing.
This feature also handles other market differences like the decimal mark (a symbol used to separate the integer part from the fractional part), and the thousands separator (a character between digit groups).
Truly a valuable function!
Headache #3: Creating multi-language manuals
Multi-language manuals are required by some customers for logistic reasons. If they have a product targeting a geographical area where, let's say, five languages are spoken, then they must include five manuals (one for each language) in the package. This requires more space and higher costs in weight, which might not be acceptable.
A multi-language manual, on the other hand, requires fewer pages since you only have one front page and one back page. But how do you combine translated manuals into one output file? Using AcrobatPro and putting it together manually?
Luckily, Skribenta supports translation on-the-fly. If you surround some information with a Language wrapper tag and set the xml:lang property on the wrapper to the wanted language, Skribenta will translate the information on-the-fly during transformation.
So, if you need to create a five-language manual, you will simply create a small master file containing five wrappers, one for each language. Then, inside each wrapper you add an include tag which points to the same source language master file.
And that's it—Skribenta will read the same source file five times and translate it according to the property!
Better still, I have a suggestion for the development team that would make this function even more powerful and useful:
Allow the list of wanted languages to be specified dynamically! That way, you won’t need to create the small master file at all. Instead, just select the languages you want to include and press the Publish button! Skribenta will then add the language wrappers automatically behind the scenes.
Is there another tech writing challenge that’s giving you a headache? Contact me and we’ll see what Skribenta can do for you.
- Tech Writer Tips