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Oh dear oh dear. You have quite a task ahead of you!
I'm sure there will be many folks that will raise their eyebrows after reading what I'm about to suggest. But I'd have to say that if you aren't totally sure about what has been updated, you might be safer by simply copying the WebHelp output files and overay the project source files. After you do that, there will be much cleanup work involved. Fortunately, I've developed an article that should help with this task. You can read it by Clicking here.
In my opinion, the only other real option is to methodically compare each topic with the source topic to ascertain if it has changed. This could likely prove far more tedious and time consuming than it would be to do what I suggested earlier.
Regardless of how you choose to proceed, you should ensure you have a good backup on hand.
After you get it all sorted out, it's time for a really good lesson for your "helper" about the difference between source and output files. Perhaps a human parallel to the old analogy about feeding oats to horses is in order. You know the one. You feed oats to the horse. That's like creating WebHelp. The oats go in one way and come out, ummm, how shall I put this? "Processed". So as you might imagine, the "processed" oats won't be nearly as appetizing and nutritious the second (and subsequent) passes through the horse. Tell the "helper" that if they insist on working that way, you are going to force them to eat "specially processed" oats for lunch every day until the activity stops.
Hopefully this helps... Rick
This is a good place to put in another plug for "Beyond Compare," an inexpensive application that compares directories and files for differences; marks the ones that don't match and flags orphans, and lets you compare (and edit!) on a split screen.
You can replace files individually. You can sych or mirror one directory against the other. You can filter files, for example, to load .htm files and exclude all other extensions.
Depending on how much work you need to do, this would help you find small differences in text as well as the ones that were completely overhauled, deleted or added.
You can define "unimportant text." For example, you can make everything from < to > unimportant. The comparison still finds the mismatches, but flags the mismatches in a different color and with a different icon.
Your solution sounds workable to me. I was wondering what we'd be up against if we just copied the WebHelp files over to the project. I'd never seen anything like this before and defintely needed a wizard's assistance. (Your article was very helpful.)
I'm going to study the whole thing a bit more, determine the extent of the problem, estimate the amount of work involved, and then decide where to go from there.
Basically, my associate is an extremely nice person with good systems knowledge but almost no knowledge of or training on the processes, skills, and tools used by technical communicators. (Have you ever seen 50-page manuals written in 8.5x11 PowerPoint? It's not a pretty sight.)
Instead of punishing my uninformed associate, I'm going to track down the former manager who made her do the work three people with no tools, no training, and no help and feed THAT person the "specially processed" oats!
I did not know that this tool existed - it sounds like a good one! We have multiple merged help systems and no idea where they stand, so that could be incredibly useful.
It might be worth comparing the output files from your last output with the output files now. That would avoid the differences that arise from looking at source and output..
Another very good idea. Thank you!
It is very nice to have you all here as a resource. When facing unusual situations like this, it is nice to be able to rely on the experience of others and their willingness to help.
I just tested the rule, and it really works.
I made < to > unimportant, and selected the option "Ignore unimportant differences."
The "Ignore" setting deleted those lines from the display. It's a toggle switch, like many other display rules, so you can hide or show things in a flash.
The only difference that comes through as significant is when a line ending is in a different place, which makes a mismatch for two lines. However, this is a basic condition of the line-by-line comparison process.
For the record: I have no professional connection to, or financial interest in, Scooter Software.
I believe judicious use of search-n-replace program would clean up your output files in about 10 minutes. ReplaceEm can find and remove just about any content or scripts that you don't need. For instance, it will remove whole scripts if you can define the unique first string, and the first occurrence of a second string (i.e. '</script>').