RE: Dealing with required/optional information in the same doc

Subject: RE: Dealing with required/optional information in the same doc
From: "Kathleen" <keamac -at- cox -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 3 Jun 2005 13:28:57 -0700


Must be Friday for me too, as I'm not sure I understand exactly what you
need to do <g>.

But based on the gist of your note, I think I often encountered similar
types of situations. See if any of the following suggestions help:

Start out with a brief overview of the steps people will have to take,
including any exceptions. Then present a numbered list for an overall
guide, including separate alternatives, if appropriate.

For example, "Below are the instructions for installing x, organized
into n sections. Section 1 has instructions for xx; Section 2 has
instructions for xxx... The instructions will vary according to your
purpose (the equipment you have installed) so please read the
instructions before you begin. To help guide you in the procedures, the
list below explains the steps you will take."

4. If you are performing x, you are now done. Go to xxxx. If you are
performing y, go to step 5 (6,...) If you are .... [these can be
if there are very many]

You can use similar techniques within the sections, if necessary. I.e.,
at the end of each section, you can add a brief statement saying the
next step is...

I should note that this technique can take some work--if things are very
complex you might find yourself reorganizing several times. But it
really helps keep things structured and makes it easier for people to



-----Original Message-----
From: Victoria Wroblewski

Maybe it's just not enough coffee yet for a Friday morning, but I'm
stumped. I think it's an issue on how to handle numbering.

In the doc I'm currently working in, we're working to combine procedures
that used to be two highly redundant chapters. Mostly the same
information and steps, but some variants. The problem I am having with
series of steps that are only required for 1 of the 2 configurations.

Sloppy Example:

Backing Up Data
Step 1: BIOS Config
Step 2: Installation
Step 3: Configuration
Setting Up Replication

They are all steps, but Backing Up Data and Setting Up Replication are
only required for 1 of the 2 configurations. All of the steps required
for either set-up are at least grouped together, the optional steps are
either before or after them. I don't want to get rid of the "Step"
references, since we've gotten good user feedback on them as a way to
keep track of were you are in the process (each "Step" is not a single
step, it is several that complete a particular function, like
Installation, etc.)

Do I give even the optional steps a step number and just note it (Step
1: Backing Up Data (Optional)). Do I just bite the bullet and manage
two 30+ page chapters where only about 4 pages are different? (I'd love
to have conditional or variable text right now but I don't, we use

- Victoria


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Dealing with required/optional information in the same doc: From: Victoria Wroblewski

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