Author-it Tips and Tricks

Out of the box, Author-it revolutionises your authoring environment and gives you so many more delivery options. But, if you dig a little deeper and get your hands dirty, you can really make Author-it work for you; give your output a unique look, effectively manage and manipulate your content, and streamline your publishing processes. 

Join me for the free 'Bend Author-it' webinar where I will show you how to 'hack' Author-it and bend it to your will. Topics include:

  • Custom Titles pages
  • XML hacks
  • AfterPublish Macros.


This webinar is for anyone who is interested in seeing how to push beyond Author-it's out-of-the box functionality. However, to do the 'hacks' yourself, you will be a reasonably experienced Author-it user who has intermediate Author-it configuration skills and some technical aptitude.

This is a repeat of my 'Author-it Hacks' webinar that I delivered earlier this year. I am repeating it for the Asia Pacific/Middle East/European timezones.

This FREE webinar will be held on Wednesday, 14 September at:

  • 0900 GMT
  • 1200 Gulf Standard Time
  • 1330 India Standard Time
  • 1600 Australia WST
  • 1800 Australia EST

Register here.

Out of the box, Author-it revolutionises your authoring environment and gives you so many more delivery options. But, if you dig a little deeper and get your hands dirty, you can really make Author-it work for you; give your output a unique look, effectively manage and manipulate your content, and streamline your publishing processes. 

Join me for the 'Author-it: Making Magic Happen' 'Author-it Hacks' webinar where I will show you how to 'work some magic' with 'hack' Author-it and bend it to your will. Topics include:

  • Custom Titles pages
  • XML hacks
  • AfterPublish Macros.

This webinar is for anyone who is interested in seeing how to push beyond Author-it's out-of-the box functionality. However, to do the 'hacks' yourself, you will be a reasonably experienced Author-it user who has intermediate Author-it configuration skills and some technical aptitude.

The webinar is at on May 24/25 at:

PDT 13:00 (24 May)
EDT 16:00 (24 May)
GMT 21:00 (24 May)
IST 01:30 (25 May)
NZT 8:00 (25 May)
AEST 6:00 (25 May)

Register here.

A couple of months ago, quietly and without too much fuss, Author-it released a Software Development Kit (SDK). This is a huge leap forward for Author-it and, I believe, gives them a huge advantage over their competitors. Why? Because now with the SDK, you can make Author-it work for you. You no longer have to change your processes and systems to fit Author-it; Author-it can now change to fit your workflow.

What can it do?

Well, lots. The SDK exposes a huge array of Author-it functionality to developers (and wannabe, or ex-developers, like me). But there are two main ways the SDK can work. You can create both:

  • Stand-alone applications (using .NET, JSON, SOAP, TCP, or ASP.NET) that can access your Author-it library and manipulate almost all aspects of it. For example, you could create a:
    • Self-service publishing web application -  A web user could build a book structure using topics that exist in your Author-it library and then publish that book (on an Author-it Publishing server).
    • Desktop application that integrates with other systems – An app that reads in content from an external database or files and automatically creates or updates topics directly in your Author-it library.
  • Plug-ins that that let you customise the Author-it user interface and launch actions from directly within the Author-it Editor. For example, you could create a plug-in that:
    • Automatically sends an email to a user when a topic’s release state changes to 'Ready for Release'.
    • Let users 'watch' objects so they are notified when an object is saved or its release state changes.
    • Puts shortcuts in the right-click context menu to embed commonly used graphics (for example, note icons) or paste topic contents (for example, boilerplate text).

Here is one I prepared earlier...

So, as they say on the cooking shows, here is one I prepared earlier.  I have created a plug-in that lets you annotate objects by attaching comments. Give it a go and let me know what you think.

What you need to know

The Author-it SDK takes customising Author-it to a new level. You do need an intermediate level of programming skills (in whichever flavour of language you choose) to get it up and running. The new Author-it DevHub does have a lot of resources (including sample applications you can download), and John on the DevHub forum is incredibly helpful with providing assistance.

If you do not have the programming skills to write an app or plug-in, now is the time to start buying your dev team mates beer and/or chocolate (or whatever it takes).

My experience

With John’s help, I got up and running reasonably quickly. For me, it was setting up the foundations of the plug-in that took the most effort (setting up the project, getting the references working, and setting up database connections). Getting the Author-it interaction working was relatively straight forward. The next plug-in or app will definitely be quicker and easier.

Making Author-it work for you

Author-it can now fit snugly with your other business processes and systems removing many clunky workarounds and manual steps. The SDK really does open up Author-it and makes it work for you; rather than the other way around.

A feature lacking in Author-it is the ability to get a list of the variables defined in your library. Sure, you can do screen captures of the variables from within the Author-it Administrator, but it is not very convenient, especially if you want to manipulate the variables in a spreadsheet or text file.

Below is how I get a list of variables, and their default values, from Author-it. There are two methods – depending on whether you are using an SQL Server or Jet library.

Notes and warnings:

  • Only use these methods if you have a sound knowledge of SQL and databases. Using these methods you access the Author-it database directly. Although the SQL commands are ‘read-only’ commands, if you do not know what you are doing, you could cause serious damage to your Author-it Library.
  • If you are using a Jet library, you will need the database password. This password can only be obtained from Author-it, so do not ask me for it (and they may not give it to you)!

 

Using SQL Server 2005

  1. Open Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio and connect to the server.
  2. Expand the Database node in the tree and select your Author-it database.
  3. Right-click on your database and select the New Query option.
  4. In the query window, enter the following query:
    SELECT NAME, DESCRIPTION, VARIABLE_VALUE FROM VARIABLE v, VARIABLE_OBJT vo
     WHERE v.VARIABLE_ID = vo.VARIABLE_ID
       AND vo.OBJT_ID=0
       AND vo.JOB_ID=0
     ORDER BY NAME
  5. Click the Execute button.
  6. In the Results tab, right-click and select the Select All option.
  7. Right-click again and select Copy.
  8. Paste into Excel.
  9. Format and print.

 

Using Jet and Microsoft Access 2007

  1. Open the Author-it library in Access:
    • Open Microsoft Access.
    • Click the 'Orb' and select the Open option.
    • Navigate to the folder where your Author-it library is located.
    • Show all files by selecting 'All Files (*.*)' in the file type drop-down list.
    • Select the Author-it library and click the Open button.
    • Enter the database password and click the OK button.
  2. From the Ribbon, select the Create tab and then click the Query Design button (in the Other group).

    The Show Table dialogue box is displayed.
  3. Click the Close button.
  4. From the Ribbon, click the View button (in the Results group) to show the SQL query window.
  5. In the query window, enter the following query:
    SELECT NAME, DESCRIPTION, VARIABLE_VALUE FROM VARIABLE v, VARIABLE_OBJT vo
     WHERE v.VARIABLE_ID = vo.VARIABLE_ID
       AND vo.OBJT_ID=0
       AND vo.JOB_ID=0
     ORDER BY NAME
  6. From the Ribbon, click the Run button.
  7. Press Ctrl-A to select all of the results.
  8. Press Ctrl-C to copy the results.
  9. Paste into Excel.
  10. Format and print.

 

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Segue Consulting

Providing professional technical communication, Author-it consulting, and online communication services.

We are one of only two Author-it certified consultants in Australia.

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