Integrated project support environments, text generation and technical writing

  • Colin Tattersall
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 550)


The acceptance and usability of application software is enhanced by its supporting documents. This documentation is expensive to produce, requiring a thorough understanding of the capabilities of the software, an awareness of user needs and adequate consideration of the scope and aims of individual documents. Though much effort is expended in the documentation process, texts often fail to achieve the quality required by the user community. Manuals may not reflect the workings of an application accurately or may be out of step with particular versions of the software. By attempting to write documentation for large, heterogeneous groups of users, manuals may fail to support the tasks with which particular organisations are involved and the learning requirements of particular users. Though the different types of document—from exhaustive technical specifications to quick reference sheets—are targeted to achieve different goals, their production is often simply viewed as the provision of varying amounts of the same material. This paper argues that the quality of user manuals would be improved by exploiting text generation techniques in the technical writing process. Using models of the various aspects of software production within the generation process, a tight bond is made between software and documentation. This allows manuals to be tailored to particular working practices and learning differences. The reduction in document development time afforded by text generation relaxes the traditional restriction to a single set of documentation, so that a range of bespoke, accurate user manuals becomes available with each software system. Moreover, the approach may be used to produce manuals in a range of different languages without additional translation costs.


technical writing software engineering environments 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. [1]
    W.J. Black, A.G. Sutcliffe, P. Loucopoulos, and P.J Layzell. Translation between pragmatic software development methods. In Proceedings of ESEC '87-the first European Software Engineering Conference. Springer-Verlag, 1987.Google Scholar
  2. [2]
    J.M. Carroll and J. McKendree. Interface design issues for advice-giving expert systems. Communications of the ACM, 30(1):14–31, 1987.Google Scholar
  3. [3]
    K.L. Dye. When is a document accurate and complete? In Proceedings of the Pacific Rim Conference on Professional Technical Communication (IPCC 1988), pages 269–272. IEEE, 1988.Google Scholar
  4. [4]
    P.K. Garg and W. Scacchi. A Hypertext System to Manage Software Life-Cycle Documents. IEEE Software, 7(3):90–98, May 1990.Google Scholar
  5. [5]
    P. Haine. Selecting CASE Tools for business use. In R. Williams, editor, Using CASE Tools in Systems Development, pages 15–18. Gower Publishing Company, 1990.Google Scholar
  6. [6]
    M.P. Haselkorn. The Future of “Writing” for the Computer Industry. In E. Barrett, editor, Text, ConText, and HyperText, pages 3–14. MIT Press, 1988.Google Scholar
  7. [7]
    W.K. Horton. Designing and Writing Online Documentation. Wiley, 1990.Google Scholar
  8. [8]
    S. McGowan. IPSEs—a Tool Writer's Point of View. In K.H. Bennett, editor, Software Engineering Environments, pages 299–306. Ellis Horwood, 1989.Google Scholar
  9. [9]
    K.R. McKeown and W.R. Swartout. State of the art: Language generation and explanation. In M. Zock and G. Sabah, editors, Advances in Natural Language Generation, volume 1, pages 1–51. Ablex Publishing, 1988.Google Scholar
  10. [10]
    J.H. Morris, M. Satyanarayanan, M.H. Conner, J.H. Howard, D.S. Rosenthal, and F.D. Smith. Andrew: A distributed personal computing environment. Communications of the ACM, 29(3):184–201, March 1986.Google Scholar
  11. [11]
    C.L. Paris. Tailoring object descriptions to a user's level of expertise. Computational Linguistics, 14(3):64–78, September 1988.Google Scholar
  12. [12]
    J. Paris. Goal Oriented Decomposition-Its Application for Process Modelling in the PIMS Project. In F. Long, editor, Software Engineering Environments: International Workshop on Environments, pages 69–78. Springer-Verlag, 1990.Google Scholar
  13. [13]
    C. Rich and R.C. Waters. The Programmer's Apprentice. Addison Wesley, 1990.Google Scholar
  14. [14]
    J.B. Smith, S.F. Weiss, G.J. Ferguson, J.D. Bolter, M. Lansman, and D.V. Beard. WE: A writing environment for professionals. In AFIPS Conference Proceedings Volume 56: 1987 National Computer Conference, pages 725–736. AFIPS Press, 1987.Google Scholar
  15. [15]
    M. J. Smith, M. W. Reeder, A. T. F. Hutt, and R. V. Evans. The process, task and object modelling workbench—functional requirements specification. Technical Report HCI/SAM/351, ICL, Strategic Systems Services, 1990.Google Scholar
  16. [16]
    M.J. Smith, M.W. Reeder, C. Duursma, C. Tattersall, A.J. Cole, F. Ravn, and B. Koza. Application model definition. Technical Report ICL-ULE/EUROHELP/041, ICL, Knowledge Engineering Business Centre, Manchester, July, 1989.Google Scholar
  17. [17]
    C. Tattersall. Exploiting text generation techniques in the provision of help. In Proceedings of the Seventh Conference on Applications of Artificial Intelligence (CAIA-91). IEEE, 1991.Google Scholar
  18. [18]
    C. Tattersall. Generating help for users of application software. User Modeling and User Adapted Interaction, 1991.Google Scholar
  19. [19]
    J.H. Walker. Supporting Document Development with Concordia. IEEE Computer, 21(1):48–59, January 1988.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Colin Tattersall
    • 1
  1. 1.Computer Based Learning UnitLeeds UniversityUK

Personalised recommendations