Delivery formats for big complicated information

Subject: Delivery formats for big complicated information
From: technical -at- theverbalist -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 9 Aug 2004 11:51:44 -0600

Heya Whirlers,
I have a big, complicated document that currently we work with in Word and
deliver as a PDF with hyperlinks, which our users say is good as far as it
goes, but doesn't give them all the info they need, in a way that's easy
to use. So I'm hoping for some suggestions for other formats to present
the info in the document that would be more useful for our users.

The document in question contains a lot of transaction information--for
each transaction it has:
* a description of the transaction
* an example of what it would be used for
* any pre-conditions
* mandatory input
* optional input
* transaction behaviour
* request objects, with hyperlinks to the elements that make up the
* response objects, with hyperlinks to the elements that make up the


Our users want to know things like:
* which data elements are used in a transactions
* what other transactions use a particular data element
* what ways a transaction can be invoked and the expected behaviour of the
transaction when it is invoked in a particular way
* anything about a transaction that may bite them in the butt

One of the users suggested putting the document into an Access database,
in order to accomplish being able to search for an element in a
transaction, and then on other transactions that use that element. I don't
know anything about Access, so I'd be totally game to learn for to use it
as a info delivery format, but I'm not sure if it's the best way to
deliver what he wants. Does anyone have any other suggestions?

On a related note, there's also some agitation from a senior developer to
deliver our developer-oriented docs, like the Developers Guide, which is
also heavily cross-referenced, in a web page format. I'm OK with this in
theory ('cause it sounds like I'd get to play with more toys to produce
it) but if anyone has any suggestions on whether this is a good idea or a
bad idea or ideas on toy...I mean tools to produce it, I'd love to hear

I'm open to any blue sky suggestions--ya never know, if I ask my boss I
might just get it--so if you were in charge of big, complicated documents
that people want to be able to search and use with more depth than a .pdf
offers, how would you do it?

Blue skyily,


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