RE: On-line vs. Print (WAS: Of myth and reality)

Subject: RE: On-line vs. Print (WAS: Of myth and reality)
From: "Sean Brierley" <sbri -at- haestad -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 29 Jul 2002 14:06:41 -0400

My initial thought is to say, online is one word, un-hypenated, the
period goes inside the quotes, and, oh, about the single space you have
between sentences . . . Bwahahahahahahahahah. </troll>

But, your point is well taken and I look forward to the debate! I'd say
an author has to consider the big picture, including deadlines. IMHO,
online help and printed docs don't absolutely need to have entirely
different requirements, and the degree of the difference is dependent
upon personal choice and the resources you have to making the

For example, I really do believe that traditional tutorials are more
effective when presented in printed documentation, but paging along in
online help is either painful or not done.

I also believe that online help targets a reader who is currently using
the software, whereas printed docs also target a reader who might be
away from the computer. Thus, I value screen captures a lot less in
online help.

Further, I do see online help used in a more specific manner, with
people looking to immediately answer a specific question about a
stumbling block they need to get past right now; so I tend to also
believe that historical, background, and nice-to-know asides are not
needed in the online help.

I also believe that by putting too much information in the help, you can
get in the way of the reader and bedazzle them into confusion, thus I'd
prefer not to simply include the above information because "there's no
reason not to." I actually think that including superfluous information
reduces the effectiveness of the online help.

I am a firm believer in a good index for both printed and online docs,
and the use of x-refs both online and in-print. I agree that such things
as x-ref format and page layout are insignificant template-based issues.



Sean Brierley
Software Documentation Specialist
Haestad Methods
203-805-0572 (voice)
203-597-1488 (fax)

-----Original Message-----
From: eric -dot- dunn -at- ca -dot- transport -dot- bombardier -dot- com
[mailto:eric -dot- dunn -at- ca -dot- transport -dot- bombardier -dot- com]

On list, I often hear the recently repeated phrase "online help and
documentation have entirely different requirements". Is this really
true, or is
it just a myth that serves as simple termination to discussion of
studying more
efficient ways of delivering information to the users?


So to challenge what seems to be the popular (mis-)conception amongst
many, what
are these "entirely different requirements"?

Eric L. Dunn

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