Today nobody can imagine technical documentation without the use of tables. They offer a reasonable and practical way of assembling data neatly and legibly. Mostly they contain technical product features with hardly any or no textual content. Some publications, like for example catalogs, seem to consist almost exclusively of tables. Even creating such tables might mean traveling down a rocky and tedious road. Keeping these contents up-to-date and administering them, sometimes feels almost like the recurring labors of Hercules. What used to be laboriously and manually picked at, written and administered using DTP tools can today be automated with XML-based content management systems.
The Classic Case
SCHEMA ST4 has of course always offered the possibility to create classic tables. In order to do so the number of lines must be determined and then – in the editor – be filled with content in the editor. Here a table need not be anything but a table.
On the Matter of Variables
The next step in automation is not only to use static texts and figures but instead to reference variables. At the time of production the set of values is selected which is to replace the variable in the output. This, too, has been a longtime feature of SCHEMA ST4. When a large amount of tables and a large amount of product features must be administered one will soon come up against limits.
Starting with the version ST4 2012 the functionality of dynamic tables is available. This is accompanied by the introduction of a new node class “data node“. Thus the requirements from a Product Information Management (PIM) as well as from a Content Management System can be fullfilled in one system. The product features are handled as metadata of the data nodes and assembled into dynamic tables by using the new table editor. The thus defined tables are then automatically filled with the referenced product features. Updating is carried out e.g. via the integrated generic interface to other data sources (via Excel) or via so called hot data base interfaces. A blessing when handling large amounts of data!
By using the functionality of the generated tables those who like to have even more automation cannot only automate the filling in but also the creation of the tables itself. If a metadata has the attribute “collectable“, it can be used for the evaluation and output in generated tables. Similar to the creation of directories, wildcards for the tables that are to be generated are positioned in the publication structure. For each of the thus placed substitutions of a table the collection range and the sorting criteria can be set. The metadata can be filled and updated manually or via import interface.
And the Layout of the Tables?
With the integrated ST4 Page Layout Designer tables of all types can be designed according to one’s wishes without any knowledge of style sheet programing. A fast PDF preview in Rich and Thin Clients included!
Finally an Overview
You know: A picture is worth the 472 words of this article.