Interactive Electronic Technical Manual

IETM is a digital technical manual that is crafted to suit a specific electronic medium, Viz. PDF, web, HTML, e-book etc. An IETM is intended to be the functional equivalent of a paper-based Technical Manual and in most cases a total replacement for the paper manual. It is different in that it is intended to be displayed on an electronic display device of some sort and has been redesigned to take advantage of the electronic medium and its associated computerized control system. It is specifically formatted for the electronic display screen, with less but more focused information being presented to a user at any one time. The electronic display allows features not readily available in the paper medium, such as displaying the specific graphic or portion of a graphic specifically associated with a text statement whenever that text is displayed. This is much more effective that the typical “see Figure X” annotation used to reference a graphic in a paper manual.
The IETM can be designed to be interactive with the user, at times requesting information from the user and based on that input determining what information to display next. By this interactive mechanism, the IETM can effectively guide a user through a procedure in a way that paper can not.

IETMs are;
• Created in a dynamic and automated authoring platform.

• Suit an electronic window display, specifically formatted for the display screen.

• More focused information being presented based on user or role.

• Optimised for better navigation and quick retrieval of information.

• Content layout is not page dependent.

• Content reorients automatically to suit view frame of the digital window.

• Assured maximum comprehension. I.e. information is “frame-oriented” and not “page-oriented.”


Key Benefits that leads better service information

• Massive cost cutting in holding, updating or storing technical information.

• Timely availability of accurate knowledge.

• Reduced need for expensive trained manpower.

• Accessibility of information from anywhere

• Accurate fault diagnosis with faster repairs

• Economising on storage space (Physical)

• Portability of information


The technical information within the IETM is so structured that user access is facilitated to a great extent. Technical data architecture is crafted based on interrelated information in such a way that, a user can gain access to any information through various paths. Information may also be queried using built-in dynamic search.
To be called an IETM, the technical Documentation must have extensive provision for the authoring activity to include authored interactive features into the IETM (e.g., prompts, dialog for obtaining data from a user, alternative branches which the user must choose). The spectrum of features and functionality of IETM systems is mapped in to six levels.

A level 1 IETM document follows the structure and format similar to that of a printed book, with indexes and table of contents. These are mostly texts, tables and raster images with limited use of hotspots. The content are mostly full-page oriented viewing. A scanned book added with some links is a Level 1 document.

IETM Formats Based on the available digital devices and skill levels of end user at field, one chooses the IETM presentation format. The choice is often made considering, interoperability simplicity, and platform independence. IETMs can be presented as a linear / non linear PDF document, HTML page, E-Book, web portal (online / offline) etc. Choice of IETM format also influences the desirable functions of it and there by also play a vital role in choosing the IETM Class / level.


A level 2 IETM is linearly structured document that includes more hyperlinks than Level 1, such as figures, tables and section references. A hyperlinked PDF document is the typical example. The document would be usually authored in XML/SGML. The user gets a better navigation ease using the hyperlinks


A level 3 IETM is non-linearly structured information that may be documented in form of an offline portal or web site. The document is structured more freely following the logics of the content. The document can still be printed but it won’t necessarily match the presentation on the screen. Hyperlinking throughout the document is expected. The document would be authored in a markup language, typically XML /SGML.



In a level 4 IETM information is structured based on a document schema in form of a web portal, with focus on benefits of data integrity and removal of data redundancy. Relationships in the content are presented as hyperlinks, and are mapped directly to schema. The sequence of presentation is also different from earlier levels. There is no longer the concept of a static page. Content can change dynamically based on users navigation; the content may also be user specific when desired. It is no longer possible to print a linear format of this document.


A level 5 IETM is different form level 4 in the aspect that the documentation is now integrated with expert systems that may influence the display of content. For example, the IETM system may aggregate data from a large number of users input, feed that to the expert system that analyzes it and then the result gets fed back to other or the same user through the IETM system. An analogy might be the Google search, where search results are improved based on analysis of large data sets of previous queries entered by users.


A network model database was used. Dynamic multi-destination hyperlink system was used. Included system-oriented layers and troubleshooting, assembly and disassembly aspects. The Advanced Interactive Electronic Technical Manual (A-IETM 1992) was an R&D Augmented Reality (AR) version of this system designed to help to guide the standards used in the mark-up of the documentation – the idea being a UI-independent data stream. Maintenance in the field and training were both benefits of this system. Created for, and by, NAWCAD/IST.

As the IETM Classes / levels lacks exact definition and boundaries, Classes / levels of IETMS are often not regarded as acceptable descriptors of IETMs. The imprecise nature of the generic descriptions is addressed by defining the desired features and functions of the target (IETM) technical information system.

IETMs can have many different Functions those may be opted / desired based on various factors like, target audience, type of information, form of the document, presentation format etc. This list of functions is used as a checklist of which features are required for a particular IETM. This checklist more precisely defines what functionality an IETM shall possess, and allows clearer communication between an IETM developer and an IETM customer.

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