Re: On-Line Vs. Print, Single-Sourcing, and how to ignore the obvious

Subject: Re: On-Line Vs. Print, Single-Sourcing, and how to ignore the obvious
From: Michele Marques <msmarques -at- rogers -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 04 Aug 2002 23:39:50 -0400

Rebecca Downey wrote:

> I would like to know *what* are the differences between On-Line and print
> documentation in your humble opinion.

Some people have answered that the main differences are formatting and possibly a few differences of what to put on-live vs. print (e.g. graphics), all of which can be handled when single-sourcing.

In some situations, I agree with this assessment, but for some software applications I believe a completely different approach is appropriate and single-sourcing is not appropriate. For example, I have provided both the on-line and print manual for a web-based form-driven application. This is not a large application, so users don't really want a huge manual. For the printed manual, everything is task-based, with only the key fields of the form described (namely the mandatory fields and sometimes a few other tricky or commonly required fields). For the on-line help, each topic describes a single-form or screen. For the on-line help, I assume that someone is stuck on the current screen (usually a form) and clicked on help to figure out what to do.

Note that this example does not mean that I am against single-sourcing. It just means that I think that there are some situations where it is not appropriate, and that on-line and print sometimes are best served by different documents with little overlap.

- Michele Marques

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