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Single source publishing is a type of digital publishing that involves the use of just one document. After the single document is made, single source publishing tools are able to spin the document into different file formats, such as a text file, a website and an image file. After the document is made and turned into different formats, the user may have to edit or change the original document. Automated tools take the edits applied to the original and automatically change all the other formats accordingly. While the documents textually are the same, there may be differences because of how the document is used.
One of the major principles of single source publishing is starting with just one document. This document can be just about anything, but it usually is a text document; images also can be used, but they are rarely used more than text. In the case of this publishing schema, the original document usually starts out as a common desktop document, because this usually is easier to spin into different formats.
Many digital publishers use this original document for different purposes. For example, if the document needs to be printed, then it stays a generic document; if needs to be archived, then it is compressed; if it is going online, it is turned into a website. Doing this manually can take a lot of time, especially if the user has to retype all the information for each format change. With single source publishing, automated tools spin the original content into any other format the publisher needs.
It is common for the publisher to update, change or otherwise edit his original document, even after it has been turned into different formats. Many single source publishing programs automate the task of reformatting the edited document. Each of the reformatted documents is changed to reflect the edits in the original document, so the publisher does not have to waste time doing this himself.
While the reformatted documents in single source publishing may have the same images and words, there typically are differences based on the document’s intended use. For example, a plain text file will be generic, a website will need links between different pages, and an archival document may need access restrictions to keep unauthorized people from changing it. Some single source publishing tools can automatically differentiate the documents, but this normally is something the publisher has to do manually.