Re: Help vision?

Subject: Re: Help vision?
From: Jeffrey Osier-Mixon <jefro -at- jefro -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 26 May 2005 11:34:52 -0700

We all seem to be in violent agreement about online help. But...

I don't think that single-source exists, and I don't want it to exist.

Single-source has existed for well over a decade. I worked with a single-source documentation system in 1992. It was a markup language called Texinfo, based on TeX, and was---and still is---popular in the free software community. The viewer was a text-based hypertext widget called "info", and the documents were compilable into Postscript. There are also several compilers for LaTeX and many other markup languages to go direct to HTML, XML, PDF, E-I-E-I-O.

XML is a markup language and can be interpreted or compiled into anything you want. It is by definition a single-source solution. If the tools you use don't give you results that you like, you can write new tools---the standard is open.

But for the latter half of your statement, I understand and agree to an extent. Single-sourced documents are great for one thing---to get the same content on the screen as exists in print. This is a laudable goal for reference and user documents, as far as it goes. It is NOT a substitute for online help, although it is often presented as such, usually with the stated goal of saving the company money. And it's true---very few people would fail to purchase necessary software because the online help sucked, not least because the money has already been spent by the time that aspect is discovered. But it still sucks for the customers.


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RE: Help vision?: From: Joe Malin

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