Track changes a la Word - possible?

Please post all questions and comments regarding Help & Manual 7 here.

Moderators: Alexander Halser, Tim Green

Post Reply
Dave Gehman
Posts: 473
Joined: Sat Sep 23, 2017 9:05 pm

Track changes a la Word - possible?

Unread post by Dave Gehman » Tue Jan 22, 2019 10:13 pm

Is there a way to track changes within topics? We're not sure Subversion does what we want...

We're advancing toward a project with multiple TOCs, one TOC of which will be WebHelp, with full verbiage; and a second TOC that will act as source for a PowerPoint (via Word), containing very much summarized words.

The project will undergo multiple revisions over the next 6 months.

Is there a way for the PPT guy to look at the H+M page - or some H+M output - and see what's been changed in a given rev level?

Let's say we have V3.1 on Monday and V3.2 on Friday. Is there a way to see what's different in Friday's content? A quick, visual way?

Maybe output Monday's content to Word... then output Friday's content to Word... then use Word's compare function across the two?

User avatar
Tim Green
Site Admin
Posts: 21493
Joined: Mon Jun 24, 2002 9:11 am
Location: Bruehl, Germany
Contact:

Re: Track changes a la Word - possible?

Unread post by Tim Green » Wed Jan 23, 2019 7:10 am

Hi Dave,

Help+Manual does not have content-level change tracking like that in MS Word and similar programs, so I'm afraid you will not be able to automatically mark or highlight only the changes. The PDF output can include author comments inserted in the projects, optionally, but since there is no change tracking you will not get that. If that is what you need we recommend that you make Word DOCX versions of the old and new versions of the project and then compare the documents in Word. That will give you highlighting for all the changes that your manager can sign off on.

What Help+Manual does have is a history function for every project, with which you can perform manual before/after comparisons between different versions return to any saved version of a topic at any time. See here for details:

https://www.helpandmanual.com/help/inde ... istory.htm

In addition to this HM supports modern version control systems (currently Subversion, which is free, and MS Team Foundation Server), which maintains a central copy of your projects and all changes on a server that can also be accessed via the Internet. These systems have functions that compare the source of your projects and topics and allow you to locate the differences.

Version control systems also allow authors in the same or different locations to collaborate on the same projects and synchronize their work efficiently. They make it possible for authors to work on collaborative projects offline -- even on a train or a plane. See this chapter in the help for details:

https://www.helpandmanual.com/help/inde ... ed_vcs.htm

Full, content-level change tracking like that in Word is not currently planned, however.
Regards,
Tim (EC Software Documentation & User Support)

Private support:
Please do not email or PM me with private support requests -- post to the forum directly.

Dave Gehman
Posts: 473
Joined: Sat Sep 23, 2017 9:05 pm

Re: Track changes a la Word - possible?

Unread post by Dave Gehman » Wed Jan 23, 2019 12:14 pm

So, (double-checking) it's basically what I said in my initial post:
Dave Gehman wrote:....output Monday's content to Word... then output Friday's content to Word... then use Word's compare function across the two....
We're also trying to noodle out H+M Server.

We are a virtual company with 50 employees across the US, Mexico, Germany, Belarus, India, and Japan. H+M Server is only for LANs, right? Does that mean that, say, 4 authors on a Server license have to be at one physical location?

Right now, we potentially have 4 users, all in home offices: Framingham & Dover, Massachusetts; Grand Marais, Minnesota; and Minsk, Belarus. Our servers are in the Azure cloud. If we were to decide to operate with 4 authors, do we have to purchase 4 H+M Professional licenses?

Microsoft suggests that connected, cloud-based users are "sort of" on a LAN:
Microsoft Cloublogs, 9 Aug. 2015 wrote: As the name suggests, a VPN allows two or more devices to share data across a public network – such as the internet – but otherwise behaves in the same way as a private one, like your office LAN. So, no matter where your users are in the world, they can access work resources just as if they were on your premises.
We certainly use our Azure connectivity this way. Does H+M Server support this arrangement?

User avatar
Tim Green
Site Admin
Posts: 21493
Joined: Mon Jun 24, 2002 9:11 am
Location: Bruehl, Germany
Contact:

Re: Track changes a la Word - possible?

Unread post by Tim Green » Wed Jan 23, 2019 2:21 pm

Hi Dave,
Does that mean that, say, 4 authors on a Server license have to be at one physical location?
At the moment, yes, since Help+Manual is actually started physically via the network and runs on the user's client machine. Doing that via any kind of WAN connection, including and in particular a VPN, is both much too slow and potentially dangerous, as any glitches in the connection carry the possibility of data corruption and/or loss.

The only way to use the Server licenses remotely safely is via Remote Desktop or a similar solution (LogMeIn, GoToMyPC etc). Then HM is actually running on a machine in the main office and editing the project there. The remote connection is effectively just a (very) long cable to the keyboard and mouse and monitor, and a loss of connection doesn't endanger any data. It is still an open question whether it is fast enough or not.

There are plans to change this in the future, moving to server-based license management.
Regards,
Tim (EC Software Documentation & User Support)

Private support:
Please do not email or PM me with private support requests -- post to the forum directly.

Dave Gehman
Posts: 473
Joined: Sat Sep 23, 2017 9:05 pm

Re: Track changes a la Word - possible?

Unread post by Dave Gehman » Wed Jan 23, 2019 4:29 pm

I see.
There are plans to change this in the future, moving to server-based license management.
It currently looks as though we'll have to wait until this change is in place. As with many self-funded startups, everything is approached on a least-cost basis.

DeWayne Rosene
Posts: 28
Joined: Wed Feb 08, 2012 6:34 pm

Re: Track changes a la Word - possible?

Unread post by DeWayne Rosene » Thu Mar 26, 2020 2:47 am

I know this question has been beaten to death and I also see that H&M 8 addresses this subject with the PDF Peer Review feature. I wish I had made my suggestion before H&M 7 reached end-of-life because I'm not sure when or if my employer will spring for the upgrade. My idea however would still be very useful, particularly in a team editing environment.

The issue with every version control system I have seen including GIT is that the "diff" function typically only supports basic text comparison. While it is certainly possible to compare two .xml topic files and see the differences, interpreting what those differences will look like when published is impossible, at least for my brain.

What seems like a reasonable compromise would be for the history viewer to highlight the differences between two versions of a single topic. It would seem to be a relatively simple feature to implement. I know that relativity is a complicated subject but even Notepad ++ can compare two .xml versions of a topic, identify the paragraphs that are different and highlight the words that have changed using it's compare plugin. Try it and see what I mean... Pretty cool huh? Ideally this would happen in the background and what the user would see would be the current WYSISWYG History view with some form of subtle indication of the differences as in NP ++.

This functionality would I'm sure be loved by individual authors like me as well as networked teams and could be enhanced with Review features like accept and reject, perhaps better named keep or revert. You could even produce a viewer only version of the History pane that folks trying to use a Repo like Git for H&M projects could use for final Pull Request approvals.

I hope posting this in the H&M 7 forum doesn't mean it gets lost. I won't double post it, YET :lol:

Dave Gehman
Posts: 473
Joined: Sat Sep 23, 2017 9:05 pm

Re: Track changes a la Word - possible?

Unread post by Dave Gehman » Thu Mar 26, 2020 3:08 am

Thanks, DeWayne.

We have upgraded to the floating server license -- and I haven't yet explored the peer review PDF options. PDF would not be my first choice for review and markup as it is difficult to extract text from it thanks to PDF's CR (or is it LF) at the end of every line, but the H+M developers may have fixed that problem.

Track Changes is one of very few geegaws in Word that the high schoolers at Microsoft got right. and I tend to want every peer review system to mimic Microsoft on this one.

Might the diff results become readable if you make a temporary topic in H+M? Lately, I've been going back and forth between the WYSIWYG editor and the XML at some key points here and there in topics-- it seems to me that pasting the diff xml into the xml viewer on a topic, then switching to the WYSIWYG editor might be a solution.

(Meanwhile, as we help writers in our company claw our way toward version control, the developers in my company assure me that diff is all I need... but these are people who think in code and have been thinking in code for 10, 20, 30, and more years. Like you, I can't visualize what a passel of XML is going to look like).

User avatar
Tim Green
Site Admin
Posts: 21493
Joined: Mon Jun 24, 2002 9:11 am
Location: Bruehl, Germany
Contact:

Re: Track changes a la Word - possible?

Unread post by Tim Green » Thu Mar 26, 2020 8:57 am

The issue with every version control system I have seen including GIT is that the "diff" function typically only supports basic text comparison. While it is certainly possible to compare two .xml topic files and see the differences, interpreting what those differences will look like when published is impossible, at least for my brain.
That is very true. 8)
What seems like a reasonable compromise would be for the history viewer to highlight the differences between two versions of a single topic. It would seem to be a relatively simple feature to implement.
The first part, that it would be a reasonable compromise, is correct. Whether it is reasonably simple depends on your definition of reasonably simple. In the sense that predicting the weather accurately and making a workable quantum computer are reasonably simple tasks, then this too would be reasonably simple. Our developers are definitely looking into solutions for this, but it is a problem that is much more complex than appears on the surface.
Regards,
Tim (EC Software Documentation & User Support)

Private support:
Please do not email or PM me with private support requests -- post to the forum directly.

Post Reply