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Of course I can't speak for anyone else here, but personally, I've never heard of such tools. This doesn't mean they don't exist, only that I've never heard of them.
You say you have never used such tools yourself. I'm curious to know if you are asking this because someone else (your manager, perhaps) has asked you.
... not sure how much detail I can share here, but RoboHelp's competition (starts with an "A" and ends with a "t" does provide such a tool.
This is similar to Windows' auto-complete (in Internet Explorer), or Microsoft's IntelliSense (in Visual Studio -- for the writer/developers out there). In a way, Word's auto-spelling-checker (when you right-click on an unrecognized word, and Word displays the most common options) works like that too.
Indeed, after typing a few words, such a tool will provide a list (similar to Google results) of most likely phrases from a database.
However, it seems that such tools do not provide a scan-entire-document/project functionality, which would be neat too.
I am the sole author of our help text, and a very disciplined person, so that I never got around to needing/researching such a tool. But I will do this now. I will keep you posted (it might take a few days -- casual search). Thanks for the inspiration.
I'm pretty sure that authoring memory tools are used by translation houses only.
I heard this kind of tool mentioned at a technical writers' conference I attended this spring (this was in Finland). There I got the impression that several tools would be available and that not all of them would be tied to a specific help authoring tool. Unfortunately I didn't ask for more detailed information on this.
Having read your replies I mailed two of the conference presenters and asked them for more information. I haven't received any replies yet (the persons might well be on holiday right now).
I would be interested to use a tool like this because I can very well understand the importance of consistency in help authoring but often in an extensive documentation set I find it difficult to remain consistent.
Today is my last working day before holidays :) But in August I can let you know how things have proceeded!
I am also searching for "authoring memory" software. We have about 150K words in our help docs that could probably be revised to under 100K by standardizing, simplifying, and reusing our English (source) text. If we did that, we would save at least $50K in localization costs (we translate into four languages), not including the benefits to our customers.
An authoring memory system uses a database of your user docs, and as you type or edit your document (such as a RoboHelp topic), suggests exact, fuzzy, etc. matches of previously-written text so that you can reuse it. This helps you maintain consistent terminology in the source language, and will save in localization costs (some vendors advertise up to 70%).
So far I’ve researched several vendors who offer authoring memory systems: LionBridge, SDL (two of the top localization firms), Author-it, Sajan, and Across Systems (who integrate with Madcap’s Flare). I’ve talked to a few of them who have set up demos. I’ve read that these systems can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars.
I like using RoboHelp and would like to continue if there’s integration with an authoring memory system. If anyone knows of such a system, please let me know, as it would certainly help all of us to decide on which to purchase.
Leon: Actually, authoring memory is frequently used by legal departments and firms.
However, for help documentation, this is still quite new (refer to A...t). I did find a few solutions, but they are so expensive (even considering $50k might be feasible for some of us). A web search did not turn up anything new, I am afraid.
We have been thinking about such tools for quite some time. Our most feasible idea was to use a standard internationalization tool, and translate from "bad English" to "good English", so to speak. However, we have still not found a good internationalization tool for RoboHelp.
I received an e-mail from RJ Jacquez, product manager at Adobe. He said he's worked closely with SDL on the their Author Assistant product with Adobe FrameMaker. Then you could import the RoboHelp files into Framemaker (the authoring memory product doesn't interface directly with RoboHelp). I'll report back what I find out from SDL and others over the next few weeks.
My understanding is limited but goes along with what has already been covered. That is these tools are horrendously expensive and that is why they are used by translation houses so that they can spread the cost across their client base.