Back to the Dark Ages?

Subject: Back to the Dark Ages?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 18 Jun 2002 15:21:35 -0400

Mark Emson reports a Dilbert situation: <<"Right then, say IT. Here's the
deal. We're going to remove most of your PCs. Here, have this pencil and
paper. Write out your drafts and pass them onto the typists who'll put them
into print. If you really can't work
without a PC we'll be leaving one machine in each office that will be loaded
with every bit of software we own. You can book yourself a time slot and do
your work then.">>

That's basically nuts, though I can certainly understand their sticker shock
when they see what (say) Frame or RoboHelp costs. But the fact of the matter
is, you can still do excellent work with much cheaper tools. If you can only
afford one copy of Frame, for instance, equip everyone else with Word or
WordPerfect, do your writing there, and move the files to Frame for layout;
either share the software, or nominate one colleague as your layout expert*.
Ditto for RoboHelp. Similarly, you can generate decent help systems using
Microsoft's free Help Development Kit (Workshop?) once you've written the
text elsewhere.

* Before you laugh, I'll point out that just about every major publisher
still uses some variant of this approach and has done so for as long as
we've had desktop publishing. Turning techwhirlers into layout experts isn't
necessarily a bad idea, but it's by no means the only way to publish things.

This is arguably far less efficient than everyone having the appropriate
tools for the job, but I don't think you'd disagree with the proposition
that it beats hell out of handwriting. The better solution is to get your
managers to give the IS people an adequate budget to buy tools that let you
do your work. If they're not going to do that, hopefully I've given you a
better alternative than a triangular stylus and soft clay.

--Geoff Hart, geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada
580 boul. St-Jean
Pointe-Claire, Que., H9R 3J9 Canada
"User's advocate" online monthly at
"A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful
than a life spent doing nothing."--George Bernard Shaw

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