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

Subject: RE: On-line vs. Print (WAS: Of myth and reality)
From: eric -dot- dunn -at- ca -dot- transport -dot- bombardier -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 29 Jul 2002 14:22:31 -0400

<<traditional tutorials are more effective when presented in printed

Perhaps, but what of those that would rather have straight forward procedures?
Couldn't the printed documentation contain both? My preference is that tutorials
appear only in training material. But that doesn't mean that the tutorial can't
be referenced in the printed documentation and linked to in the online help.

<<I value screen captures a lot less in online help>>

Simply handled by not including the shots in the online version or providing
condensed screenshots or only icons for the online help. To make the online help
much more useful, why not add functionality to open the correct window and menus
(Some MS files have a 'Show Me' for procedures). After all, if the user browses
the online files, they may not have the requisite screen displayed.

<<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.>>
<<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

Granted the asides and background shouldn't interfere with quick delivery of
procedural or troubleshooting information. But why not give a link to an online
version of this information? Why force the user to dig out the printed manuals
if they follow a trail in the online help to something that may be of use? The
use of 'See Also' at the bottom of the help pane and inclusion of links in the
procedure to more details will allow the rushed user to get only the required
information while a user trying to figure out how to accomplish something more
involved can effectively browse to more information.

The inclusion of "there's no reason not to" type information in the wrong place
or manner certainly gives a good reason not to. But if the information is
reorganized yet still included, why not provide all the details?

Eric L. Dunn

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