Before the advent of the Interactive Electronic Technical Manual (IETM), there were simply physical books which were separated into chapters and pages. With IETMs, industries, especially aerospace and defense, are discovering the benefits of delivering and reviewing technical data electronically.
IETMs depart from the conventional approach to providing information by introducing a new format as well as higher levels of functionality for the manuals. What would have been many volumes of text can now be compressed into online pages or CD-ROMs, and may even feature audio and video components. In addition, IETM allow readers to find the needed information more easily than with traditional paper manuals.
There were drawbacks to the first generation of IETMs, however; the most important being the presentation of data that remained book-oriented – with readers turning pages of information which came in a chapter-section-page format. To address this, hyperlinks were introduced, including links to references for figures, tables and sections. Data was also now structured based on the content’s logic.
IETM Classes IV and V featured an even more revolutionary approach to data presentation: technical data was now organized according to the information, and diagrams and drawings were pooled into a database that could be easily referred to when accessing the content.
A major difference with these newer classes of IETM is the possibilities they offer for content re-use, or building upon data that is still current instead of recreating all the time. With these new levels, users can easily navigate through and make changes to the data, so that pages become part of a dynamic document that can be stored in a relational database. IETM Class V offers even more radical breakthroughs, with the data constantly aggregated and improved based on the input of a large number of users.