RE: Html vs. Pdf

Subject: RE: Html vs. Pdf
From: "Bradbury, Geoffrey (RSA, Brisbane)" <GBradbury -at- rsasecurity -dot- com -dot- au>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 28 Mar 2001 09:23:14 +1000

Greetings all...

Bill raised some interesting issues re. HTML v. PDF. I've worked in both
formats and understand the appeal of each. Both have their place in the
grand scheme of information dissemination. Yes, quite often PDFs are
designed as the twin of their hard-copy sibling. Why?
- Security. It's more difficult to 're-badge' PDF files. Acrobat offers some
nice security features here.
- Reliable reproduction of the document as the author intended.
- Accessibility. The Acrobat Reader has a search facility.
- Platform-independent format. I'm always uneasy about handing out files
specific to the XYZ word processor. The Acrobat Reader is freely available
for a wide range of platforms (cunning Adobe marketing ploy).
- Not everyone feels easy about reading and digesting screenfuls of
information. Hardcopy has its place as something that's highly portable, you
can scribble all over it and read it at your leisure. And no, you don't need
to print all 300+ pages of a document, just the ones that matter.

Bill's point about formatting PDFs to work with a wide range of viewing
devices is valid. Perhaps the (slow) emergence of e-books may provide an
alternative here? Acrobat 5.0 appears to be taking up on this point.


-----Original Message-----
From: HALL Bill [mailto:bill -dot- hall -at- tenix -dot- com]
Sent: Wednesday, 28 March 2001 8:34
Cc: 'Susan -dot- Jelus -at- DaytonRCS -dot- Com'
Subject: RE: Html vs. Pdf

Susan Jelus is looking at the choice between HTML and PDF in documentation
"from the point of view of features, benefits, strengths/weaknesses,

"I'm especially concerned about:
- the availability of search/find functions
- ease of maintenance
- ability to layer information
- navigation tools
- printability"

>From my jaundiced point of view of a person who reads almost everything on a
21" screen (or a laptop) - and most of it retrieved from the Web, I have
come to hate, loathe and revile PDF. It is slow to load and 95% of the
people who use it, format their documents in ways which make them very
difficult to read on screen - even a BIG one.

We all know that HTML has a lot of deficiencies where layout and design are
concerned. However, for people who have dispensed with slow and ponderous
paper, HTML has a MAJOR advantage - the formatting adjusts itself to the
user's screen requirements, which in most cases are set to maximise the
document's readability to the particular user. To my way of thinking - the
main requirement for any documentation is that it should be read by the
intended user.

Another thing, many authors writing on screen use colour to help with their
presentations. As a reader, I also find colour quite useful (if used with
discretion). However, I work in an industrial environment where the only
reasonably accessible printers are B/W. The only way I see colour is

In general, cross linking in HTML documents works far better than PDF's
variety. Hypertext is an HTML specialty. When you are focussing on a paper
paradigm you don't think this way.

Where printing is concerned, I very rarely print anything (unless I suspect
the web page is ephemeral and I want to save an image for reference). In
most cases I can and do retrieve the desired information from the computer
or the Web (e.g., bookmarks or Google) when I need it far faster than I can
locate it in a paper filing system or even in the clutter on my desk.

If you want to print a pretty page for a design competition, use PDF. If you
want to deliver your content via a browser to an on-line user like me,
PLEASE use HTML for the sake of readability.

I could go on, but will conclude with only one more point:

95+ percent of the HTML pages I print are still quite legible when printed
(with page breaks being the only problem). Probably less than 30% of the PDF
documents I download are legible on screen - and often, when printed, the
type fonts chosen are not even particularly legible on paper.


Bill Hall
Documentation Systems Specialist
Integrated Logistic Support
Tenix ANZAC Ship Project
Williamstown, Vic. 3016 AUSTRALIA
E-mail: bill -dot- hall -at- tenix -dot- com <mailto:bill -dot- hall -at- tenix -dot- com>

Geoff Bradbury
Technical Writer
RSA Security Australia Pty Ltd
Tel: +61 7 3227 4470
Mob: 0419 626 758
Fax: +61 7 3227 4400
email: gbradbury -at- rsasecurity -dot- com -dot- au


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