On Tuesday of next week, the tekom annual conference will get underway in Stuttgart. At the conference we will be presenting the latest version of our component content management system – ST4 2017.

Today I want to tell you about one of the most exciting new features: the project configurator. In general terms, it reduces the workload involved in manually compiling nodes in projects.

What sounds easy (and it really is easy), will open up completely new vistas for you in terms of organising your authoring processes. Not only can you automate the cooperation between ST4 and other systems, but you can also automate tasks directly in the system.

“Less is more” principle – filter logic

Until now in ST4 you have had to manually populate publication structures (“projects” in ST4). In extensive databases with a high degree of reusability you can apply filters that save you having to repeat tasks unnecessarily. This way you can define master structures for groups of documents and filter out the unnecessary parts at the time of publication in an automated manner.

This is an important feature that many of our customers use successfully and has significantly simplified work for many technical writers:

Placeholder principle – structures that are automatically populated

When it comes to publishing information, the project configurator opens up a whole new approach to you. Instead of manually populating a master structure with fixed modules, as with filters, you can define master structures from placeholders using the project configurator.

A placeholder is just a combination of characteristics. At the touch of a button, the project configurator searches for the nodes in the information pool that fit the defined combinations of characteristics for you. Until now, the logic for publication structures was almost the opposite: the technical writer didn’t make the selection, rather ST4 supplied the nodes as a system.

When it really pays off for you

You can use the project configurator if your database is consistently indexed. The mechanisms for this are available in ST4 in the form of metadata and taxonomies.

This new way of working is especially worthwhile for technical writers who are faced with the challenge of a continually increasing number of variants. I know customers who are only just able to cope despite really elaborate filterable master structures – they will definitely be quick to switch to publication filters.

But even users who manage very well with the filter logic can display variant-rich individual entries (e.g. country-dependent information) in a sophisticated manner using the new placeholder nodes. That is to say that both processes can be combined. This allows everyone to find out, step by step, how much automation is worthwhile for them.

How the project configurator works

Although the project configurator is a really advanced feature, it is remarkably easy to use. Its centrepiece is a new Viewlet, which lets you create and manage the characteristic-based master structures. Here is an example:

What the example doesn’t show, but will mean an enormous increase in efficiency for you, is that publication structures can not only be defined and populated in the project configurator, but as a technical writer you can also create missing nodes and systematically fill gaps in the data inventory.

This means the project configurator is a sort of operation centre that creates transparency in variant-rich databases and helps you to keep on top of the content even more easily.

Want to know more?

That’s all for today about our new project configurator. If you would like to find out more then feel free to visit us at the tekom annual conference in Stuttgart.

You can find us right in the middle in Hall 2, Stand C07.

If you already know that you want to come, I would recommend that you make an appointment. From experience, I know that there is always a lot going on at our stand and this will mean you don’t have to wait unnecessarily.

Simply contact my colleague Claudia Arold at claudia.arold@quanos-content-solutions.com. She will also be glad to organise a free entrance ticket for you.

On that note, I hope to see you soon in Stuttgart!