Publishing Your Policies and Procedures Content to the Web with Doc-To-Help

Doc-To-Help allows every level of Word user – from novice to expert – to take the content that they have in their documents and get it online quickly and easily in a very accessible format: NetHelp, Doc-To-Help’s browser-based XHTML output. Doc-To-Help will automatically organize the content into topics, add a Table of Contents, create an index, and include a seach engine.

Policy and Procedure writers will enjoy many benefits. Information is quickly shared online (especially important for organizations with multiple locations). Since the information resides online, in one place, it is easy to keep up-to-date. Printing costs are cut drasticallyby eliminating the need to distribute printed manuals. In fact, our customers have saved up to $60,000 in printing costs.

This article will show you how to do exactly that – from the ground up, with nothing but a Word document and your copy of Doc-To-Help.

We have constructed a sample project (EmployeeHandbook.zip) that was created following the steps outlined in this article. This sample will help you understand how you can use your Word manual with Doc-To-Help.

Download EmployeeHandbook.zip

If you would like to use a document you already have or create a new document, the notes below are helpful.

Creating Your Own Project

Creating a new project is easy. Just click New Project on Doc-To-Help’s start page and follow the wizard.

Tips for using an existing document:

  • Tip: If you have an existing document, select the Import Existing Files radio button in the New Project Wizard.  You can import existing Word documents, HTML files, or XHTML documents from your local machine, a network drive, or from SharePoint.

Import Existing Files

Doc-To-Help is a topic-based system. The document in our sample is 51 pages long and it would be very difficult for the reader to find information on a given topic if the handbook were left in that format. Therefore, Doc-To-Help chunks the document down into individual topics based on Heading styles.

The Hierarchy for the Table of Contents is Based on Heading Styles

Open the document by double-clicking on its name in the Documents pane. Select “Welcome!” and you’ll notice that it has a Heading 1 style applied to it. The Heading 1 style is a paragraph style and paragraph styles are what Doc-To-Help uses to organize your content into topics for your project.

“About This Handbook” is a Heading 2, as is “Company Background” and “Overview.” Doc-To-Help will create a book – the highest level topic — for “Welcome!” and add “About This Handbook” and “Company Background and Overview” as subtopics in the “Welcome!” book. It will keep making subtopics until it encounters another Heading 1, which is “Employment Policies.”

All the Heading 2′s will be part of the Employment Policies book. If you want to make subtopics ofor the Heading 2′s, create a Heading 3. And so on down the hierarchy.

Generally, we advise our customers to allow Doc-To-Help to do the heavy lifting for them, since there are a number of things that it can create for you automatically, thus establishing a strong foundation for the project. As we will cover later, the Index, Table of Contents, and Related Topics are all completely customizable, so why not let Doc-To-Help get them started? Whatever it neglects, you can always add in after the fact. But by letting the software do the heavy lifting for you at the outset, you give yourself a starting point to work from.

Doc-To-Help will automatically create a Table of Contents that mirrors the hierarchy you set up in the Word document by configuring the Heading levels (Heading 1 is higher than Heading 2, which is higher than Heading 3, etc). Once you have built the project – the sample project has already been built and re-built several times – the table of contents will appear with everything in the same order in which it appears in the document.

In addition, Doc-To-Help can be set up to automatically generate an Index for your project. To have Doc-To-Help do this for you, select the Project tab. Click the dropdown arrow in the Auto-Index button and check Conceptual, Contents, and Procedural.

Everything with a Heading 1 style applied to it is a Contents topic type by default. Everything with a Heading 2 or 3 style applied to it is a Conceptual topic type by default. Everything with a Heading 4 or higher style applied to it is Procedural. So, by checking these three topic types, you are telling Doc-To-Help to create an Index entry for every topic.

Example: Since “Welcome!” has a Heading 1 style applied to it, Doc-To-Help will create a Welcome! Index Keyword and will automatically associate the Welcome! topic with that Keyword.

*Tip: If you have a Word document that is configured to create an Index using XE fields, you do not need to take this step, but it will add any Keywords that you may have missed. Doc-To-Help is set up to read those XE fields and create the Index for the project from them.

Once all of your topics are created, the hierarchy has been established, and the Table of Contents and Index have been automatically generated with Doc-To-Help, you’re ready to customize.

Customizing the Index

To customize the Index, you will need to click on the Index and Groups pane and work with the Topics Grid. The Topics Grid will appear to the right of the Index and Groups pane when the Topics tab is selected.

Click the Add New Keyword button to create a new Keyword. In the case of the sample project, we created a new Keyword called “Holiday” and associated all the Vacation topics with it. Since there might be users from the UK or Canada accessing the manual, they would look under “Holiday” in the Index instead of “Vacation” to see how much paid time off they have received/accrued. To associate a topic with our new keyword, I just need to drag and drop a topic into the window below it.

You can also create sub-keywords just like you can create subtopics by using the Add Secondary Keyword button.

This association works the other way, too, so you can create Keywords first, then associate them with specific topics by clicking the Keyword dropdown for that topic, and selecting the appropriate Keyword.

Customizing the Table of Contents

When you click on the Contents pane in the sample project, you see the table of contents exactly as it will appear in the ouput. When you double-click the “Welcome!” book to open it, you can see the three subtopics, “About This Handbook,” “Company Background and Overview,” and “Company Communications.” The Employment Policies book has several subtopics that were Heading 2s, just like we saw in the document.

I can customize the Table of Contents by dragging and dropping topics, change the hierarchy by using the side-to-side and up-and-down buttons, and pull topics from the full list of topics in the Topics Grid.

One important thing to keep in mind is that this does not change where this information appears in the source documents, it only changes how Doc-To-Help presents the information.

Using the Related Topics Pane

Related Topics appear as links under a “More:” heading at the bottom of each topic. Doc-To-Help automatically creates Related Topic links to all subtopics of a topic, but you may want to add more links that point to topics with related information.

The Related Topics pane is very similar to the Index and Groups pane. You can relate any topic to any other topic by dragging-and-dropping, just like we did in the Index and Groups pane, but based on relationships between topics and other topics, not topics and Keywords.

When you click on the Related Topics pane, you’ll notice that three topics were automatically related to the “Welcome!” topic by default, since they are subtopics of it. From there, we associated other Related Topics with the “Welcome!” topic by dragging and dropping. They are displayed as Custom Related Topics (the automatic subtopics are listed as Subtopics).

A number of our customers have used this feature to guide their users through a select set of very important topics that all employees need to be exposed to.

Doc-To-Help’s glossary feature allows you to add a glossary of definitions to your project, which is another way to make information readily accessible to your employees.

In the Glossary document, create your terms by either applying the Glossary Heading style to existing terms in an existing glossary document, or by creating a new document and clicking the Add Glossary Terms button on the Doc-To-Help toolbar found in Word

When the NetHelp project is built, Doc-To-Help will create a hyperlink for each term the first time it appears in a topic. When the user clicks on the link, the definition associated with that term pops up, giving the employee an easy way to learn new terms and concepts. See Creating a Glossary in the documentation for more information.

*Tip: A number of our customers have used this feature to explain acronyms that are unique to their company. When the employee clicks on the acronym, the glossary definition pops up, showing the user what the acronym stands for. In the sample, go to the “About This Handbook” topic and click on the terms STQ and ASAP for examples of this.

Other Customization Options

  • Use Conditional Content to create different versions for different types of users, as well as including customized content and functionality in different types of outputs.
  • Create custom templates in Word or custom style sheets using our CSSEditor to include special styles and promote consistency.
  • Doc-To-Help’s Theme Designer makes it easy to create a customized “look and feel” for the output. Many of our customers have changed the NetHelp output to mirror the design of their Web site.
  • Content Variables can be used to re-purpose commonly used content, such as disclaimers, copyright notices, and confidentiality notices.

Whether you already have a document or are starting from scratch, the concepts outlined in this article will enable you to quickly create a manual that is suited for both print and online use. Most of our customers choose to create a PDF or Word document output to distribute either in printed form or electronically, as well as creating a NetHelp project that they can host on their Intranet.

NetHelp is a Dynamic, Searchable Web Site

NetHelp is a self-contained, fully functional, dynamic site, with searchable content and a number of avenues and features designed to make it easier for employees to find and share information.

Since it is a web-based output, you can publish it to your company’s website, Intranet, or SharePoint site.

Contents Tab

The Contents tab organizes topics into a hierarchy and separates them by book (or chapter). Since the information is already disseminated into individual, focused, specific topics, the employee will only have to read the information they are looking for and the structure of the Contents – particularly if you customize it with your users in mind – will make finding that information a simple, painless process.

Index Tab

The Index tab allows employees to search by Keyword to find the topic they are looking for. If you have customized the Index for them, they will be able to find it more quickly, but if you set up Doc-To-Help to create the Index for you automatically, they will still have something to work with that is more dynamic and interactive than scrolling through a long document in search of one, simple answer.

Search

By using the Search function in NetHelp, your employees can just type in the subject they’re looking for more information on and hit Go. Topics are sorted in order of relevancy and Doc-To-Help compiles the search database for you.  NetHelp supports phrasal, Boolean, and fuzzy search.

Favorites

Users can add certain topics to their favorites – such as vacation topics, topics that relate to health care benefits, or topics that relate to their 401(k) accrual – so that they can reference them at their leisure.

Print Topic/E-mail Topic Buttons

Your employees can print their favorite topics for their reference, or they can e-mail topics to other employees. When you click on the E-mail Topic button, a message is created in your default e-mail program that contains a link directly to the topic.

This means that, if you are in the Human Resources department and receive a question about what the standard Co-Pay is for an in-network physician, you can quickly look that topic up and e-mail it to the employee for them to access directly. From there, the employee can print the topic, or add it to their favorites.

When we set out to create the sample, it took about 45 minutes to set up the basics – create the hierarchy and topic structure using Heading styles, create and customize the Index, create the Glossary, and build the NetHelp output.

If you are looking to get your content from a plain Word document to a dynamic site on your Intranet, that’s a realistic expectation for the time taken per document to make it happen.

Of course, there are additional features in the sample that make it more flexible and more intuitive for the user, but that takes more time and planning.

Other features used in the sample:

Content Variables

Groups

Expanding/Collapsing Text

Inline/Dropdown Text

Conditional Text

It’s up to you how much or how little you want to do with your project. With the customization options available in Doc-To-Help, there is virtually no limit to the things you can do.

Or, if you just want to get a clean, easy-to-use web-based version of your policies and procedures manuals online, you can do that as well.

With Doc-To-Help’s flexibility, you can either take what comes out of the box, or completely customize it to fit your needs; it’s your choice.

Given the rising costs and long print cycles of paper-based solutions, printing manuals proves to be too expensive and not timely enough to be sustainable.

Our customers have saved up to $60,000 per year on printing costs alone, not to mention time save by operating more efficiently, and the goodwill of satisfied customers and employees that can find answers to their questions faster and easier.

3 thoughts on “Publishing Your Policies and Procedures Content to the Web with Doc-To-Help

  1. Does Superdiet Works

    Greetings from Los angeles! I’m bored to death at work so I decided to browse your site on my iphone during lunch break. I love the information you provide here and can’t
    wait to take a look when I get home. I’m surprised at how fast your blog loaded on my mobile .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .
    . Anyhow, good blog!

Leave a Reply