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We plan to share two tips periodically: one for novices and one for more advanced technical communicators. Our tips will run the gamut from tool-specific hints to general writing tips to tips on working as an independent.

If you find our tips useful, please let us know. If you'd like to suggest an improvement to a tip or a new tip, please do so. We'd love to hear from you. We'll give you credit for your information if we post it on this page.

We've been archiving the tips we've posted previously. You might find some of the information useful, so we're letting you have access to the tip archive.

Novice Tip

Here's a tip related to e-mail. Whether you're sending a message to a friend or to a business associate, you should be sure of two things:

  • Make sure the name that displays when someone receives your message shows your first and last names. Typically, you set this when you set up your e-mail information in your e-mail client software (Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora). Send a message to a friend and ask how your name displays in the inbox.

  • Put your full name and e-mail address (maybe other contact information, too) at the end of the message. You can have your e-mail software do this automatically by setting up a signature.

Why are these important? The first is important to identify yourself. These days, many of us don't open a message from someone we don't know. If you don't put your full name, the message looks like all the spam we get from Jessica, Mike, and whoever else. It's just too risky with all of the viruses and worms going around the Internet these days to open messages if we don't know the sender. Make sure your e-mail recipients know who you are.

The second is important to identify yourself once someone opens the message and is reading it. Especially on e-mail discussion lists (work-related lists; this is not about chat rooms and the like), it feels really cold to respond to someone whose name you don't even know. E-mail lists can be a bit cold to begin with, but putting your full name in a signature at least lets someone who wants to help you address responses directly to you. 

Advanced Tip

Conditional text in FrameMaker is very powerful. See the tips archive page for some planning and implementation ideas. A lot of FrameMaker users who have not used conditional text wonder about using it instead of or in addition to variables. Here are some thoughts about common ways to use both:

  • Conditional text is good for text, often complete paragraphs, that apply to one version or another of a manual. For example, you may have two versions of a product that run on different operating systems (OSs). You can use conditional text to tag the installation steps for OS A and OS B. Then you show only OS A when you are ready to create that book.

  •  Variables work well for small, consistent pieces of text that need to differ for different versions of a manual. For example, you may produce manuals for two different products that are very similar, or even identical, but have different model numbers. Variables work very well in this case. You just set up two FrameMaker variable templates, one for each product. Then you can import just variables from the variable template when you are ready to produce a book. Be sure to delete any variables you do not need from the template files.

  • You can also use variables and conditional text in the same book. In either of the examples above, you could use variables for the OS names or product names and conditional text for information that is different for each OS or product.

  • Key point here. You should carefully proofread the final version of the book to ensure that the variables and conditional text are correct and do not introduce errors.

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Last update: April 6, 2003
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