Tech Publication & Service Info

Part 1: The Benefits of Customizing PTC Arbortext

2 November 2016 | Team EACPDS


This is part one of a three part series regarding PTC Arbortext, deciding whether to customize or not. In this series, we will discuss the benefits of customization, the costs of customization, and deciding whether to customize or not.

You’ll often hear of DITA in the technical documentation world. DITA stands for ‘Darwin Information Typing Architecture’ -it’s an XML-based open standard for structuring, developing, managing, and publishing content. Quite the mouthful huh? What you need to know about DITA is that it leverages XML to be used as a way of writing and storing your data so you can manage it like an asset. What does it have to do with PTC’s Arbortext? PTC was the first company to ever deliver a complete DITA solution – one where organizations can finally start to maximize their investment in service lifecycle management.

One of the most fundamental questions you have to face when considering an Arbortext implementation is whether to use the technical documentation software out of the box or develop customizations to adapt the software to your specific use cases and work processes.

In practice, this is not so much of an either/or decision, as a how-much decision. In other words, nearly every implementation has some amount of customization, even if it’s just tweaking a composition stylesheet to add your own appearance specifications to the composed output. For some applications, where one of the standard doctypes such as DITA or DocBook is adequate, that’s all you need. For other applications, you may want to add custom features, user interface elements such as toolbars and custom dialogs, a tailored doctype or schema to support specific data requirements, connections to other enterprise systems such as ERP systems, and so on.

Adapting Arbortext software to your specific business environment can provide a number of advantages. Here are some examples where customization can add value to your implementation:

Author Efficiency

Custom features and user interface controls allow the author to work more efficiently.

Example: if authors frequently need to change one type of element into another similar element, then adding a toolbar button and/or keyboard shortcut to trigger the operation can let authors do it with a single click or key press, as opposed to using the Change Markup dialog.

Workflow Integration

Custom integration with software can streamline processes in the workflow.

Example: Suppose you have part data stored in an ERP system, and you are writing support documents associated with the part data. In a stock Arbortext installation, you might need to export the part data as an Excel spreadsheet, and then copy portions of the exported data in Excel to paste into the XML document in Arbortext. In contrast, a customization could allow authors to click a toolbar button, make a few quick selections in a dialog box, and automatically extract, format, and insert the part data in the correct location in the document.

New Capabilities

Customizations allow you to add new features to Arbortext Editor.

Example: Suppose you have a metric that you want to track on your documents that depends on the number of specific elements in each document, such as graphic elements. You can easily add a feature that would count instances of a specific element and report that for a document. You could also generate a report for a set of documents found in a directory tree or a folder in a content management system (CMS). This would let authors get this information directly within Arbortext Editor, without having to switch to an external tool to do the analysis/reporting.

This publishing engine software can be customized in a number of ways, and frequently we see users customizing their stylesheets to make them look better or compliant with their publishing standards. Arbortext stylesheets are used to publish documents that have consistent styling and formatting, no matter who authored the document. Sometimes these stylesheet customizations can be significant and complex, but often we see a need to make simple modifications to the fonts, logos, and page margins. EAC QuickPubs provides users an easy way to make those simple style modifications and create great looking documents.

Stay tuned for the next post where we discuss the cost of customization.

If you’re looking for ways to adapt your environment to fit your organizations needs, EAC QuickPubs may be for you. It’s an add-on designed to style documents that fit your organizations brand at a lower cost than a customization to PTC Arbortext. You can create aesthetically pleasing part manuals, owner’s guides, service manuals and more with ease. Publish fast, cheaper, and better today!

Transform the way you design and publish product information through QuickPubs, an EAC product for PTC Arbortext. For more information about QuickPubs contact us. Publish faster, cheaper, and better today!