Preferred online formats?

Subject: Preferred online formats?
From: Geoff hart <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "'Sandra Charker'" <scharker -at- connectives -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2000 09:00:21 -0500

Sandra Charker has seen <<...speculation about why users preferred HTML to
PDF, but Is there data?>>

I suspect the discussion you've seen on techwr-l counts strongly as data.
Tally up enough answers and you've got a decent summary from people who
actually have to use online references on a daily basis. A few more data
points from my personal experience:

1. Designers rarely take the time to format PDF for a typical 15-inch
monitor; instead, they aim for documentation that people will print. That is
_not_ online documentation: it's a file-transfer method intended to shift
printing costs to the reader from the producer. A PDF designed to be read on
screen can be every bit as good as HTML, and probably better (on the
assumption it's designed by a typographer who understands that legibility
takes presence over creativity).

2. HTML lets you customize the display to fit your own unique needs; if you
really do prefer 8-point magenta type on a chartreuse background, then you
can make it so. This is both a good and a bad thing, but the bottom line is
that users prefer flexibility and customization, all else being equal.

3. HTML seems easier to copy text from (personal experience), so those times
I want to archive just a small section of text, it's easier for me to do
than with PDF. HTML is also easier to open in a word processor, edit, and
resave in HTML; PDF is largely a one-way trip.

4. HTML comes with every system that has internet capabilities (via your web
browser); PDF still requires a separate reader application that you have to
download. (Yes, Acrobat is usually included in the browser as a helper
application, but how many people realize they should go to their internet
browser to open a PDF file? It's not rocket science, but neither is it

--Geoff Hart, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"The paperless office will arrive when the paperless toilet
arrives."--Matthew Stevens

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