From: meGood point Paula – and I totally agree that retyping may be easier in some cases. I wasn’t trying to make a blanket statement that my guestimate of 1 hour would apply to Carrie’s content.
In fact, now that you mention it and I reread my post, there was no way you could have known that I was remembering 10+ years ago when I worked for a different employer. One of my projects was to convert hundreds of OfficeVision (an AS/400 word processor) documents to Word / WinHelp. That was when I ended up with a master.cnt file and 100 .hlp files, when it was all said and done. I don’t know if you remember that, but a lot – and I mean A LOT – of people on HATT helped me through that conversion, like Char, Rick Stone, Paul O’Rear, Bill Swallow, and you. <grin> Please, don’t be insulted if I didn’t specify you in that impromptu list!
During that conversion, there was a wide range of page lengths. Some of the existing documents were really short – a page – but those counterbalanced the ones that were 50+ pages. I’m remembering a specific existing 65 page doc that was part of that conversion. It had not only content about the menu options that were on the screen, but bundled with it, there were implementation procedures of let’s say 6 steps each. The system I was working with was for a billing system used by telecommunication companies and this specific one had 15 menu options. One of the things I was also dealing with was cleaning up garbage like:
“To run the <State_Name_Calling_Plan> menu option, the user must have authority granted by your system administrator or another authorized user, if you don’t have a system administrator. Running the <State_Name_Calling_Plan> menu option requires that the user has an authority record set up through the Authority Maintenance menu option, which is conveniently located on the System Controls menu. If the user does not have access to the System Controls menu, the user cannot access the Authority Maintenance menu option to set up authority for this menu option – it must be granted by your system administrator or another authorized user, if you don’t have a system administrator. The <State_Name_Calling_Plan> menu option cannot be run during the Billing Cycle. Consult the documentation provided about the Billing Cycle to determine when the <State_Name_Calling_Plan> menu option should be run and what menu options must be run before the user can run the <State_Name_Calling_Plan> menu option. ”
Can you hear that blurb screaming, “Rewrite me! Please! Save me from this dribble! Create snippets about the <State_Name_Calling_Plan> menu option, about Authority Maintenance, about the System Controls menu, and about the Billing Cycle! Please! I’m begging!” I wish I had that source file available to look at, but it’s on a CD-R at my former employer. Cleaning up junk like that is why I wrote, “you guestimate that on average, it will take you 1 hour to convert each “chunk” to your new tool. You came up with that number because you have several long topics that will counterbalance several small topics that will take minutes to convert.”
Anyways, that’s where my head was at when I responded to Carrie’s post.
Happy New Year! We are planning to watch “Grown Ups 2” with our 17 year-old daughter, her friend that is a boy, and our 15 year-old son. BTW, if anyone saw GU2 and thought it was awful – it’s on a bunch of “Worst Films of 2013” lists – feel free to save me! At 44, it’s safe to say my “out all New Year’s Eve” times are over.
From: Paula R. Stern<snip>
The first question is why it would take an hour to convert a chunk of information? If that were true, you could type that chunk faster into a new tool than that estimate. If you really think it would take that long to go from any tool to any tool, that's what I would suggest you do – just go type it over again, given that a chunk really shouldn't be longer than a page (and often less).
Without commenting on what tool goes to what tool – most content can be imported in far less time than one hour per topic/chunk. Honestly, if it would take that long, you could probably export it to PDF (takes minutes); export that to Word – with the latest Acrobat version, what you get isn't that bad - and then import it into RoboHelp, Flare, whatever.
We are in the process of moving one client to RoboHelp – they are using Doxygen at one daughter-company; LaTeX at another. As part of the rebranding, we just took PDFs from each of these outputs, exported that to Word and reformatted it properly according to the new template. A 100 page document (probably around 200 chunks of information/topics), took us less than 5 hours to import and reformat. Importing it to RoboHelp shouldn't take more than 5 hours once it has been properly formatted – if that.
So, I estimate 10 hours – let's double it for argument's sake and to make the math easier. So – 10 hours to import 200 topics comes to 20 topics an hour, or 3 minutes per topic.
Using your equation of 1,000 topics – we're talking 50 hours – or $2,500 – even doubling that – you still come to $5,000. The learning curve for some applications is longer than that. Again, this is a real life, just done example of moving from PDF to a help authoring tool – in this case RoboHelp, though I have no doubt Flare would be just as fast.
I agree that going into AuthorIT would take much longer and be more complicated but if the direction is AuthorIT to RoboHelp (or Flare), honestly, piece of cake.
From: Rhonda BraceySpot on Paul. And don’t forget the cost of training, and perhaps getting in a consultant to help set up new templates etc. for the new tool. Back in 2009 I wrote a blog post on just this – I still think it’s as relevant today as it was then: http://cybertext.wordpress.com/2009/02/16/the-real-cost-of-new-software/
I realize I am chiming in a bit late, but I wanted to point out the ‘hidden cost’ to converting from one tool to another - the total number of hours you will spend just to get from your current tool to your new tool.
I am using the numbers in this example because I suck at math and I’m knee deep in work so bear with me.
Let’s say your hourly rate, whether you are salary or not, is $50 / hour. That’s the number your employer uses for calculating its salary budget. Further, let’s say in your existing documentation, you have 1000 topics or chunks of text that need to be converted from AIT to RH, Flare, whatever. Further, after analyzing your content, you guestimate that on average, it will take you 1 hour to convert each “chunk” to your new tool. You came up with that number because you have several long topics that will counterbalance several small topics that will take minutes to convert.
So, with your 1000 hours of work, multiply that by your hourly rate ($50) and you get a conversion “cost” of $50,000 and after your employer spends $50,000, they will *just* have your existing content transferred from one tool to another. There won’t be any “normal” updates of your content. The newest feature that all your customers are begging for? It won’t be included. The new topics you are planning to write based upon your Support department’s Top 10 Questions We’re Asked on a Daily Basis – those won’t be done. You will simply have the exact same content you have now but instead of opening AIT, you will open RH, Flare, or whatever.
And, if you fire up your calculator and divide 1000 hours by 40 hours, you’re looking at 25 – 40 hour work weeks that will be spent converting and, really, how many of us spend 40 hours only on a single task? It’s never been realistic in my nearly 18 years of being a technical writer.
Good luck with your situation - I hope it works out well for you. Please keep the list informed of what you end up doing!
From: Carrie ZinckThank you all for your advice regarding the switch. I’m very interested to see how many of you suggested Flare as a better solution. As I finish this comparison matrix, I’m going to add Flare to the list and see if that might be a better compromise.
I so appreciate you all!