Timeframe for creating Online Help System

Subject: Timeframe for creating Online Help System
From: "Hamlett, Ashaki" <Ashaki -dot- Hamlett -at- pfizer -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 13 Jan 2005 13:30:00 -0500

I'm working as a contract technical writer that has been tasked to create a
user manual for a large, complex application. The current user manual is
stored as thirteen Word files. Each file is at least 20MB (due to the large
number of screen shots). When I joined the team, the other writer was going
to convert each Word file to a PDF, then merge all the PDFs into one file.
After much discussion, it was decided that this wasn't the most
user-friendly format. The user would literally be opening a 700 page file
and expected to find the procedures he/she needed. It was then decided that
we'd create an online Help system with RoboHelp that would enable the users
to easily search procedures and keywords. Well, now the other tech writer is
no longer here, so I'm writing all the documentation for the system. Based
on our time crunch, the manager would like for me to continue with our
original plan (Word files converted to a large PDF). This solution presents
a couple of problems: 1) the Word files are so large they are getting
corrupted; 2) the user is going to have to toggle through several hundred
pages of a PDF; and 3) the file is too large to e-mail to colleagues at
remote locations.

I don't feel comfortable creating a document that isn't usable, but I have
until February 1 to deliver a user manual. Is it realistic to create a help
system (not sure the number of topics) in this timeframe (I'd be using RH
X5)or do I just concede and deliver a 700 page PDF?

My goal is to talk to the manager today and voice my concerns with the
current strategy and I'd like to convince him that the PDF solution (even if
it's quicker) isn't the best. Has anyone else have to combat this problem?
All comments/suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.



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