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Subject:Re: Reference Data and Online Help From:Steven Jong <SteveFJong -at- comcast -dot- net> To:"TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com> Date:Wed, 23 Jun 2004 08:49:48 -0400
Steven Oppenheimer <Steven -at- OppenheimerCommunications -dot- com> wants to know
if anyone knows of "some study, or textbook, or something that passes
for a source of authority in the field of technical documentation,
which states that online help should only have procedural material, but
not reference material."
Steven, your situation (product only has online information, online
information is only for procedures, therefore no reference information
online?) defies simple logic, and on that basis alone your manager is
wrong. I suppose that's small comfort 8^)
In my personal opinion, one could make a better argument for the
reverse--that reference information is better placed online, with
printed documentation for procedures. (I've seen writers try to
maintain online help for a huge system of highly complex forms, but
also try to describe for each form the relationship with all the
others. There was no clean way to describe tasks that required using
sequences of forms, as almost every task did. Nervous breakdowns and
other hilarity ensued...) If you happen to have an enormous quantity of
fairly static reference information, it can be much cheaper to store
online, where it can be accessed readily, searched rapidly, and printed
out selectively. (Obviously, simple logic requires that if only printed
documentation exists, then any reference information would have to be
That said, I don't think there's any such study, textbook, or authority
that says any such thing, for the simple reason I give above. Nor is
there anyone who says the opposite as a hard and fast rule. All in all,
it depends--on the reading habits of users, on the quantities of
information, and on the nature of the product.
Steven Jong ("Typo? What tpyo?")
SteveFJong -at- comcast -dot- net
617-374-9600x6442 [W] 978-692-3184 [H]
Home sweet home page: home.comcast.net/~stevefjong
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