RE: Convert Paper Documentation to Web Format

Subject: RE: Convert Paper Documentation to Web Format
From: "Christensen, Kent" <lkchris -at- sandia -dot- gov>
To: "'TECHWR-L'" <TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 4 May 2000 09:12:32 -0600

Julie Johnston writes she wishes to post the (large volume of documentation
in paper format) on the web and notes problems with retaining formatting.

Sean Brierley offers ... "HTML is a crude layout standard, it does not
support nearly as many formatting conventions as a word processing or DTP
tool. In short, HTML has severe formatting limitations."

Sean is correct, and Julie's proposed plan is typical and the PDF format
exists to accomplish the desired result. Problem is, attempting to tranfer
document formatting that works on paper to the web is like trying to
substitute apples for oranges in a recipe, and Sean's comments, while
accurate, are irrelevant.

It's my suggestion that Julie now has the opportunity to learn html and,
more importantly, best ways of formatting documents for the web. While it's
indeed true most people have the pdf reader and many (but fewer) people have
WORD, it's really not very "user friendly" to just provide links to files
requiring browser plugins. (I think it's crummy.) The load time is slow
and cumbersome, and the true power of the web, i.e. hypertext linking, is
not offered. Surely there are relationships between your documents or even
references within a document to prior or subsequent information that could
be hypertext linked, providing a service to your readers. (And you're going
to have to remove statements that read like ... "Go to page 17.")

And, if you surf the web to view "professional" websites, you'll notice most
often page formatting that puts text in rather narrow columns--text
formatted from left side of screen to right side of screen is discouraged
since it's hard on the eyes. Folks read computer screens differently.
WYSIWYG with word processors is ok because "what you get" refers to how it
prints, but the ergonomics are different when the user reads from the
screen. There is lots written on this, and one of the classics is the Yale
Style Guide at

Julie, since putting documents on the web is "in the wind" now where you
work, I'd bet you'll be doing this more and more in the future. I'd look at
this as some sort of "fundamental shift" and as the opportunity (requirement
if you must) to learn new tools and new document formatting techniques. I'd
also suggest the classic notion: do it right the first time because you will
surely have to do it over if you don't. Html is the language of the web,
and formatting for the screen is little related to formatting for paper.
You owe it to yourself (or your company owes you the time and training) to
do it right, and more importantly your customers deserve the best web
experience, and links to pdf or doc files are the farthest thing from that.

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