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Author Topic: Looking for software to manage and merge various MS word documents  (Read 1591 times)
kenner81
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« on: July 10, 2012, 12:28:50 AM »

I have to deal with creating many documents.  Each document has 4-10 chapters.  Many times the same chapter can be found in multiple documents.
Whenever I update a particular chapter, I have to track down each document that uses that particular chapter and replace it with the new chapter.
It's very tedious and time consuming.

Here's a sample of what I do. 
I write 6 word documents: Chapter A, B, D, E, J, and R
I then merge the various documents in different orders with different chapters (e.g.
Document 1 : chapter A,  Chapter B,  Chapter D
Document 2:  chapter E, Chapter B, Chapter J
Document 3: Chapter B, chapter J, Chapter R
If I revise chapter B, I have to manually go into Document 1,2,3 and update chapter B. Save each document and identify it as a new version (e.g. Document 1 ver2

Does anyone know of software that could help make this easier and automate the process?
Optimally, I'd like to be able to edit a chapter, and have the software keep track of which documents use that chapter, then auto update just that chapter.

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lanux128
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« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2012, 12:51:46 AM »

hi & welcome to the site!

you can try Chapter by Chapter (CbC). CbC is a software for managing and organizing chapters within Microsoft Word.

http://sites.google.com/s...erthet/chapter-by-chapter


also if you're a writer, check out this thread: Software recommendations for writers.
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40hz
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« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2012, 02:32:15 AM »

What I think you're looking for is a category of publishing software called a document processing system. Basically the page composition and formatting is separated from the actual page content in this type of app. You'll create a page with formatting which acts as a template. The content then gets imported into the template in order to produce the actual document. This type of system is popular for the creation of manuals where parts may be updated or edited on a regular basis, but the overall document remains mostly unchanged. This sort of app tends to be complex and expensive because they're geared toward corporate use. Examples would be Ragtime and Interleaf.

There are also a number of "help" and documentation processors that will allow you to keep a central repository of paragraphs which can be selectively imported into various documents. A good example of this type of app can be found here. These are not exactly cheap solutions ($200-800 depending), but I think they do exactly what you're trying to accomplish.

If you're willing to do a little more work and have a little less automation, take a look at Mouser's Form Letter Machine. With a little imagination it can also be made to do what you want at significantly lower cost.

Luck! smiley
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wraith808
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« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2012, 10:22:24 AM »

Writing Outliner is also a good choice.  Before I stopped using Word for writing, it was my go-to tool for that type of thing.
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Target
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« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2012, 06:07:42 PM »

this is another situation where a bit more info might help (what are you using the documents for, are there any document foramtting considerations, etc)

if you're creating static documents from a (randomised?) set of source documents why update at all.  If you keep a record of the document 'templates' all you need is something that will create a new version with the updated content, ie delete the old version and replace it with a new (updated) version.

The only rub with this approach (that I can think of) is if the output is edited or has formatting applied post assembly, though even that isn't necessarily a show stopper
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kenner81
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« Reply #5 on: July 12, 2012, 10:49:38 AM »

I work pretty much on manuals.  For example if the hardware requirements change, I'd rather create a chapter or page entitled "hardware requirements" , edit that document, then have a program replace that chapter/page with my new chapter/page in all of the documents that use that chapter/page rather than manually go through each one.

I'll review each recommendation to see which works best for me.
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AndyM
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« Reply #6 on: July 12, 2012, 11:51:56 AM »

You can use Word for this, not sure it's the best approach.

Use bookmarks.  Bookmark your chapters, perhaps giving them dates/version numbers in the name (Ch4.2012-07-12, Ch4.3ver2, etc)

Then have one summary doc that is simply a list of links to the latest/desired chapters.  Edit the links when they require updating.  You can either print from that, or copy the content to an updated separate file.  What you can't do is edit the chapters from the file with the links.

You'd still have to keep track of which files contained the current/desired chapters.
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« Reply #7 on: July 12, 2012, 05:53:02 PM »

rather than bookmarks I think I'd try working with mailmerge...

maybe a bit fiddly to set up, but you can use merges to regenerate the documents.

You'd still need to keep a master list of documents and their components to track the changes, but it seems like automating the merges should be do-able in VBA

How many documents are we talking about all up?
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