Soft Copy - Online Publishing


Greg Mack

Soft Copy Publishing

Hi all,

I would like to know what method others are using to publish their documents online.

We use a product called 'HDK' - Hypertext Development Kit, which compiles 'Word' files into 'Help' files. We also publish our forms and templates using the 'File-New' option in the suite of Microsoft Office Products across a network.

Does anybody have a different approach, or other products they would like to share?

James Gutherson

Hi Greg, you were busy over the weekend with all those posts.
Anyway, we just publish most things in HTML and run them over the Intranet. For flow-charting procedures we use package from, which produces a HTML output. We then wrap these procedures up with descriptions of the process in web pages, which effectively forms the Quality Manual. Note that I subscribe to the same philosophy as you regarding a BUSINESS management system and I am attempting to remove references to Quality. For this reason the site (or the Manual) has been written to reflect how we do business, with a small cross-reference table to demonstrate how we meet the requirements of ISO9002.
For publishing documents I use Adobe Acrobat (pdf files) but only because of printing problems in far-flung regions, I would prefer just to use password protection on the original documents. All databases, internal-external documents, training, non-conformances, suppliers, corrective actions, etc have been done using modifications to MS Outlook and are accessible via the intranet pages.
An outdated copy of the site can be viewed at but unfortunately the flow charts did not move across to my private hosting site.

Any queries, just get in touch, we can be to far away!

[This message has been edited by James Gutherson (edited 11 February 2001).]

Greg Mack

Hi James,

Thanks for the feedback. I took a look at your site and I liked the way it was presented. Is your system mainly soft copy based or is it split with hard copies?

We don't use MS Outlook but I have heard many good things about it albeit brief. I would love to know more about this product and it's benefits.

When you mentioned about using Adobe-Acrobat for printing reasons in far-flung regions you mentioned a preference for using protected documents. Does this mean that Adobe documents cannot be protected? I have not had any experience with Adobe at all, so excuse my ignorance there.

The way we have set up our documents goes something like this. We have a partitioned drive on our network, which is situated across each Capital City in Australia. This is a read-only drive to all of our employees with write access granted to myself and one other Business System Manager.

All files are protected in Word as a form and can be completed online using the form fields. The drive is replicated across the network using a program called "D-Copy". This program replicates my source directory to each of the drives on different servers. This takes about 30 minutes, but saves countless hours of copy and pasting across 15 servers!

At the moment, our IT business unit is evaluating several options for an electronic document management solution using an intranet based approach.

We also have businesses in New Zealand, Manila and Taiwan and are also expanding to Hong Kong this year. So at the moment, I send updates for this drive in these places on CD-ROM. A real pain!

So basically what this all means is that all controlled documents are available on this drive to all employees. The whole purpose is to have a single entry point for all users, particularly as we have seven different businesses within our group, currently maintaining 17 individual Certifications.

The HDK Help file has links to all of our procedural documentation but at this stage, does not contain links to any forms. As I mentioned in my previous post, these are accessed through File-New in MS Office Programs. This was completed by pointing the Workgroup templates to a folder on our partitioned drive. Then, once file-new is selected, a tab corresponding to folders (named under business units) is displayed and the user then selects the correct form. This has made it a lot easier for users rather than going through explorer.

Anyway, I could babble on for hours I guess but I best leave some room for others.

David Mullins

The "QA Software" forum may be the best place for your post to ensure people with an interest in that area are seeing your questions.

My last employer has a set-up similar to James' with an intranet server system, HTML pages with links to the documents, generally in PDF, except for electronic forms. PDF is not tamper-proof, but is fairly close.

Don't know about HDK, but it sounds like someone thought it was a good format to avoid tampering.

Most server-based e-doc systems are expensive, time-consuming and require expensive maintenance with upgrade problems, such as layout corruption, data loss and so on. The only ones I've seen run reliably are those directly developed by software companies for their own use - and even those are a cow (or should that be white elephant) when you attempt to use them in an external environment.

There are lots of success stories of e-doc systems, but all of the ones I've seen haven't lived up to the hype when you start digging. The administrators usually end up confessing all the labour intensive problems that don't seem to have permanent solutions.

(FYI - I'm not happy with the 2000 version of the standard, as I believe it opens up the floodgate wider for businesses to set up isolated quality systems that exist only for certification/registration's sake)

(I'm familiar with SALMAT's junk mail business, which fastener company were you with?)


Greg Mack

Thanks David,

Currently we are trialling "idocs", (so I am told) and from what I have seen, it takes forever to find the document, and then it just opens up the word document anyway! So why not just use Explorer in Windows?!

Just to add to your comments, Salmat is not entirely "Junk Mail" rather it's focus is "Customer Communications" and has many more capabilities than simply letterbox delivery. Hopefully you are familiar with the whole box and dice we can offer to our clients.

James Gutherson

Thanks Greg, I'm really happy with the way the site turned out, and inside the Intranet it works very well as is simple to maintain.
The system is totally soft copy, though I am still stuggeling with a few hold-outs regarding their personal form libraries.
I only recently discovered how powerful Outlook can be in a network environment. Take for example, an Internal Documents database. I created a new Public Folder which is based on a 'Task' type item (Outlook users will know what I mean). I then modified the task form by adding fields like revision number, review date, branch, etc and removing or modifiying the items I didn't need. For example, the task due date field was changed to the document due date (ie date to be reviewed). This enables the automatic formatting of Outlook to color this item red when it goes past this date. I then added a link to the actual document in each record enabling the user to open the record, see the information about the document, then open it (or a new document based on it if it was saved as a word template) from the one screen.
Other databases I have created include training (based on Contact type items), Process Improvement Notice (based on Task type items), Internal Review (audit) schedule (based on appointment type items), and it goes on.
The real bonus I discovered was using MS Frontpage and being able to add an "Outlook Control" to a web page. This effectively gives a real time window of the selected database right on the web page. The user doesn't have to leave the Documents page of the website to get to the database, and it is constantly updated, not like a list of Hyperlinks to documents, and much easier than a script to update the page. I'm finding it a bit hard to explain, but it works really well, is cheap, easy to set up and use. At the moment it work only inside the intranet, but I will look at MS's webfolders to see about extending it in the future.

Adobe documents are, like David said nearly tamper proof. Acrobat sort of creates an image of the Word, or Excel or scanned or whatever, document and saves it in a single file format. The free reader program lets users open it with no editing rights. The full version of Acrobat can mark up documents that have the appropriate permissions. I just distribute the reader to all the users, and have the full version with a few authorised users. We mainly used it because different offices have different printers which cause some documents to run over pages on some printers but not others. Acrobat has solved this. It is, for us anyway, for printed forms and handouts only. You can use it for online forms like the Word version but everyone would need a full version of Acrobat. I would stick with Word if you can as it removes an extra step. I try to use the online forms and templates in word but it is a bit flakey with different computers producing different results, and out IM&T department is not interested in supporting it (I'm not sure they understand it).

Speaking of which I'm interested in D-Copy. Do they have a web site. Our IM&T dept have decided to cut Intranet access to the far regions which basically screws my system (talk about a step forward :( ). So I need a way to do like you have and run a master folder which be duplicated from time to time in the regions servers. This might be one solution.

[This message has been edited by James Gutherson (edited 12 February 2001).]

Greg Mack

Hi James,

You have really got me interested in Outlook, although I am not sure what our position is company wide on this product. I did hear some rumblings about it in the past, but I will make some more enquiries.

Thanks for your detailed reply. As for D-Copy, I am not sure if they have a web-site as it was provided to me from a previous employee. It is Free-ware so there are no problems with licences.

I will forward you a copy.


Fully vaccinated are you?
The Melissa virus and many other viri - brought to you exclusively by Microsoft's Outlook program. 'Nuff said.

James Gutherson

A little bit of common sence, a tweak of the security levels and these virus can be managed. Don't let personal views blind you to advantages offered by a system, computer or otherwise. Take a step back and evaluate the good and bad, and if the risks are to great then, good go another way, but don't dismiss out of hand.
Mark, you are a proponent of keeping things simple and not buying add-on after add-on program. This system is composed from only the elements (except Acrobat which I would prefer to get rid of if I could) of the Microsoft Office suite which is damn close to an industry standard (the reason why it is the target of these virus).
I have no desire to put more money in Billy Boy's pocket, but I have used what I have been given and found a solution that works well and that others might want to explore.

PS have this picture of Anna K to enjoy
Soft Copy - Online Publishing

[This message has been edited by James Gutherson (edited 13 February 2001).]


Fully vaccinated are you?
My comment has nothing to do with liking or disliking microsoft - it has to do with reality. Luckily, software vendors really do enjoy exemption from defective products - microsoft has cost companies hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars because of defective product (defective in my opinion). My comment was short because I did not want to get into the arguement.

Whether or not Office is a standard or not is in how you look at it. My point stands - Outlook is a very dangerous program. I do agree - evaluate and weigh the risks. If Outlook is for you - fine.

->an industry standard (the reason why it is the target of
->these virus)

Not really - that's a part of it but the problems are more from microsoft having so tightly integrating their OS and programs with the intent of being everything to everybody. From active X to enabling outlook to run visual basic scripts, microsoft has opened up your computer to the world.

->A little bit of common sence, a tweak of the security
->levels and these virus can be managed.

I'm not sure how common sense comes into this, but I do agree security levels can be adjusted. As you by now probably know, another virus / worm / whatever just hit the world. Many companies have learned, since Melissa / I Love You. Let's see what damage todays virus / worm / whatever does.

For the most part microsoft has played little part in protection schemes. Solutions are 3rd party firewall solutions - both hardware and software.

->Mark, you are a proponent of keeping things simple and not
->buying add-on after add-on

Sounds like me, all right! Don't buy software you don't need but if you do buy software, buy appropriate software. many times writing your own is the answer (or contracting the job).

In short, if you think outlook will do it for you fine - go for it. But - don't be ignorant of the risks. Which is why I made my comment above.

There are many ways to address electronic publishing. I've taken a back seat on this thread because the issue is discussed in other threads here and because I have to really know some details about a company before I can seriously recommend a specific solution. And you folks are doing so well, I didn't think I really have anything to add.

I will say that the solution should be one that the person who designs it can leave and others can easily maintain. I have seen really elaborate systems designed and implemented and then the person who put it all together leaves and there's no one who has the background or experience to be able to keep it up. I see this mostly where there are complicated systems of links within flow charts and such, and where word is used with the track changes feature relied upon for version tracking. I can say one complaint about web based documetns in html - often problems arise from printing issues. Acrobat is OK but everything does have to be 'printed' through Acrobat.

IU will end my rant by saying Do not forget equipment capability issues. If your company is still running Win95 and has a bunch of 386's and everyone has 32 mbyte RAM - will it run what you want and is speed an issue (waiting 5 minutes for a procedure to download and open is a problem in more ways than 1 - and one is that people will be seriously complaining and someone will end up using an old version not knowing there is a new version becuae even getting a listing takes forever.

As far as what Greg is doing, I don't really understand how their network is set up. Most companies any more seem to locating documents on a single server and making it accessable through vpn over the internet to other locations world-wide. I'm not an IS professional either, so my response should be taken with that fact in mind.

->Does this mean that Adobe documents cannot be protected?

pdf files can easily be protected against printing and/or changing content and/or opening and/or selecting text and pictures.
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