In 2016 a great deal has happened once again in the world of technical documentation since the last ST4 release. With ST4 2017, we want to fulfil the increasing demands on efficient content management. Alongside some substantial changes, we have of course made many small changes that we briefly want to introduce to you in this post.
Main objective: automation and usability
In complex project worlds, automated and intuitive processes are necessary, even in the most diverse of user contexts. For this reason, we have expanded and adapted ST4 to optimally support these specific workflows. We have already recently given one highlight its own post: the COTI standard that fully or partly automates translation imports and exports. Naturally, changes were also made in other areas. We were able to iron out many wrinkles in the usability and create more freedom for creative, professional work.
Here is an overview of the most important new features:
At the beginning of the year we were already convinced that our Callout Designer would be very popular. In our callout competition we received not only ambitious, but above all very appealing graphics. In ST4 2017 you now have even more editing freedom. In the new version callouts can also be designed as SVG graphics. SVG is an XML-based vector format that is supported by all standard browsers. This means that callout graphics can now also be enlarged in HTML5 productions without compromising on quality.
However, even more interestingly, you can now create interactive graphics thanks to the SVG format. In ST4 Callout Designer 2017 you can define hot spots that trigger certain actions on mouseover. As a standard feature, by clicking on a hot spot in the image you can jump to the corresponding legend entry or highlight it in colour. This also works the other way around, allowing you to jump from the legend to the image. This is definitely a very interesting new feature in terms of the understandability and user-friendliness of documentation.
APX – Automated Publishing Extension
We have expanded the functionality of our APX server module so that third-party systems, such as ERP or PLM, don’t merely link with a production and add filter criteria, but so that content can also be integrated into a production. Production variables (e.g. footnotes, titles etc.) and variable tables (e.g. for technical data) can be imported automatically. This editing freedom opens up other possibilities to automatically compile information about a system network.
If you would like more information on the practical applications of APX, we recommend the presentation “Auftragsgesteuerte Gebrauchsanweisung für konfigurierbare Rollstühle” (“Order-driven operating instructions for configurable wheelchairs”) given by Arno Schmidt of Otto Bock Healthcare Products GmbH at the tekom annual conference.
The ST4 update process is now not only quicker, but also more intelligent. Smart Update recognises which content your system needs and loads and installs it in a single package. You also no longer need to research which update packages are compatible with your system – ST4 now does this for you.
The Online Media Designer has become even more user-friendly. The format of documentation as it will appear on mobile devices can be simulated in preview mode. Users who predominantly produce online help will also be pleased that the Online Media Designer is now also compatible with HTMLHelp.
In both layout editors we have improved the interaction between preview and feedback control. If you click in preview mode, the display now jumps to the relevant format, meaning that a lengthy search for the appropriate format is no longer necessary. We have also optimised the search function for layout definitions. Previously you had to write the search expression yourself using query language. Now you can select the elements and characteristics via the interface. SCHEMA ST4 then generates its own search expression from your instructions.
Layout engine optimisations
The centrepiece of ST4’s proprietary publishing tools Callout Designer, PLD and OMD and Layout Recall is the layout engine. We have made the following small, but significant changes:
- Default values simplify your work with consistent values. Some will seldom or even never change, such as a corporate typeface, for example. A default font saves having to scroll through the jungle of fonts on the internet.
- On a typographical level, another feature has also been added: virtual fonts that consist of a symbolic name and all the possible font styles, thus enabling significant professionalisation of production.
- Colours make you happy and to make sure it stays that way, ST4 is now compatible with colour profiles and can even convert them into the appropriate output format. This means the display quality of your documents is up to standard, not only on screen, but also on paper.
- Last but not least, the document checks now give you a better overview of error messages.
ST4 2017 in action
We’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone whose feedback has helped us to further develop ST4 and we hope to see you again at this year’s tekom annual conference.
As with every year, users can find details of all the changes in ST4 2017 at the tekom annual conference in the paper “Neues in ST4 2017″ (“New features of ST4 2017″) available in the blue box on our trade fair stand.