RE: Formats for cross-platform documentation?

Subject: RE: Formats for cross-platform documentation?
From: "Janet Swisher" <swisher -at- enthought -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 17 Jun 2004 11:20:31 -0500

>Well, I guess what I was trying to get at was: is there a method
>particularly suited to the things I wish to do (informal engineer-to-
>engineer manuals for in-house cross-platform software)? In your
>experience, which way is the "best" way, for a variety of reasons?

>I don't have any experience with formatting user guides and such, so I'm
>trying to get some expert opinions about things I should look into,
>whether it be certain technologies, methods, styles, whatever.

If it really is an "informal engineer-to-engineer" situation, and likely to
stay that way, you might consider using a Wiki. That would make it easy for
any engineer to add new content, without knowing about page or web layout
programs. Most Wikis use some variant of "structured text", which is plain
text in which you use indenting for sectioning, asterisks for emphasis, and
so on; the Wiki converts this simple, readable markup to HTML for display.

However, if you think you'll want to make your informal documents more
formal in the future, a Wiki may not be such a good choice, as they tend to
be haphazardly structured and linked ("organically" would be a kinder word). (the latest version) seems like a good choice in the latter
case. You can export HTML for online viewing, and export PDF if you want a
more print-oriented format. Theoretically, OO.o can import/export DocBook
XML; I think it would take both an intimate knowledge of DocBook and a lot
of discipline (in terms of properly applying styles) to make that actually
work. In your case, I doubt it's worth it; just use OO.o and don't worry
about DocBook.

In another message, you wrote:

>Also, I don't have access to a web server at the moment, so this will have
>to be distributed (electronically for sure, maybe by printing it out as

>I've started doing it in HTML, which I like because it's universal and
>flexible, but without a server to process it, it means writing many many
>pages and managing all the links between them by hand.

You would need a web server in order to set up a Wiki. Lacking a web server,
I'm not sure how you're going to distribute this electronically. Email?
Installed along with the software?

Janet Swisher
Senior Technical Writer
Enthought, Inc.


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