Creating inch and metric tutorials?

Subject: Creating inch and metric tutorials?
From: "Brierley, Sean" <Sean -at- Quodata -dot- Com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 6 Apr 2001 14:28:40 -0400

I missed the original post.

However, you really have to do two separate tutorials. Now, you can use
approximately the same CAD/CAM geometries.

The issue is this, when you discuss the numerical measurements in inches,
you discuss three decimal places for smaller parts (thousandths of an inch).
For metric parts, the same numbers would be to tenths of a millimeter,
maybe. So, you cannot really use unitless numbers because the numbers would
look strange to one of your two audiences.

However, a part is a part. Write the procedure for the inch representation.
Then, copy the exact same text and numbers for the metric example. Then,
take the US numbers and go through the book converting and rounding and
test against an actual creation of the part. The result is a metric part
that is very close to the same part you created for inches. Also, you will
want to do more than just round the numbers. You will want numbers that make
sense, so I recommend you round to get an approximation of where you want to
go and then test in the CAD/CAM program to make sure the number does not
need tweaking. The reason you test is to make sure your surfaces align as
you make rounding and tweaking decisions about metric values. Something else
to consider is using multiples of 5 and 10 for metric parts.

You also need to use, as an example, a part that is recognizable in
different industries as well as countries. Assuming your product is not
solely used to manufacture mountain bike parts, using a mountain bike part
as an example might not make sense or might seem odd to somebody who makes
parts for pumps. Find an example or examples that are real-world and widely
recognizable. Of course, you want to showcase all the main features of your

In this way, the procedure, CAD drawings as imported into the books (don't
dimension these in the CAD software, do it in your DTP app), and screen
captures (except those with measurements in them) really stay the same and
some work is saved. No need to outsource and the second book is only half
the work that the first book was.

Each document is then printed and bound or PDFed as a separate work. One
other thing to add is you might want to consider using UK spelling for the
metric version. A simple search and replace will fix this, for the most

I would not alternate between inch and metric. That would be difficult to
follow, foreign, and frustrating to a reader, especially if each section
builds on the previous. Let's say in one section you create a set of curves
using inches and in the next section you create a surface using metric . . .
and let's say your software is good enough to be absolutely accurate in
converting the units . . . the reader is still caught and distracted by the

When I did this, I briefly considered using conditional text in FrameMaker
to separate US and Metric versions in one book, but ultimately decided the
overhead of managing the conditions really was not worth it.

Finally, don't write off your US market. As a whole, the rest of the world,
like it or not, is kinda used to US English in computer manuals. (Blame
Microsoft or whomever. ;?) The US audience is more likely to be alienated,
to a large degree, by UK English or metric . . . though this might not be
true of specific industries, like the automotive industry.


sean -at- quodata -dot- com

-----Original Message-----
From: Hart, Geoff [SMTP:Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA]

Christine Capazzi wonders: <<My team and I are running into a sticky
situation with the printed tutorials for our CAD/CAM software. We
have four
full-time writers and one part-time writer. We currently create 7
tutorials (one for each product) using only inch parts, tools, and
parameters. Due to the increased level of business overseas (it now
for 50% of our sales), we are becoming aware of a need for metric
The interest is mainly coming from the international dealers who
our manuals after they are completed (each country's dealer does
- we just hand off the files when we're done) but the noise is
from the rest of the world also.>>

In all likelihood, the optimal solution is to create two entirely
sets of examples (one metric, one imperial).


<<1. Create one version of each tutorial first (inch or metric) and
convert to the other measurement system. This sounds great at first,
means we have to maintain twice as many publications in the future.
We could
farm out the conversion to an outside consultant, but still a big
strain on

It also risks the problems that I've mentioned above with
(rounding errors).

(e.g., someone ***must*** check the results of the tutorial to
be sure the parts align, fit, etc.).


<<2. Create half the tutorial in inch and half in metric.>>


This could elegantly turn the problem into an opportunity if you add
a few
simple words at the beginning of each tutorial: "In an increasingly
marketplace, every manufacturer must cope with the unpleasant
reality of
working in two or more* measurement systems. To help you adapt to
reality and to showcase the flexibility of our software, we've
examples in English and metric units in alternating chapters." I
don't buy
your argument that "we wouldn't be duplicating the functionality",


<<3. Create manuals only in metric and let the few countries that
use inches
fend for themselves.>>

Not a good solution.



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