Mozilla docs

I’ve been doing some contract work at Macromedia and learned a few things about the documentation process. I’ve also discovered a fantastic tool that Macromedia created, LiveDocs.

I’ll write more about some of the techwriting process that I think Mozilla could adapt, but I wanted to post about LiveDocs because it is so simple, but so brilliant.

The two pieces of the application are:

  1. A documentation set generated off of some FrameMaker files, and a nice UI on top of it. The UI is similar to developer documentation that you can find on MSDN. I won’t describe it here beyond explaining that it has a nice, hierarchical table of contents that is easily navigated.
  2. An “Add Comment” button on the bottom of each page. This allows readers to add feedback to any page of the documentation. The brilliance of this is that authors can maintain ownership of style and content of the document, while easily being able to recieve and process feedback on the document itself.

This is definitely something that open source projects would benefit from. The fact that the files from from FrameMaker is irrelevant, but there does need to be some kind of structured means to develop hierarchicial, indexed documentation.

As an aside, a friend of mine recently was telling me about JavaDoc and how it has grown into a standard system for storing API documentation, allowing any IDE (I think Eclipse is the one he mentioned) to import documentation and integrate it into their editors or help systems. I think this is something that could be investigated as an import format for the system described above.

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