RE: Distributables in PDF vs HTML

Subject: RE: Distributables in PDF vs HTML
From: "Nuckols, Kenneth M" <Kenneth -dot- Nuckols -at- mybrighthouse -dot- com>
To: "Caroline Tabach" <Caroline -at- radcom -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 3 Jan 2006 08:51:26 -0500

Caroline Tabach asked...
> It was suggested we distribute Release Notes in HTML rather than PDF,
> What are the advantages/disadvantages of HTML vs PDF.
> Issues that occur to me are that a PDF is easier to print.
> Maybe the way HTML appears is browser dependant.
> Am I correct in thinking that if I have FrameMaker, there should be no
> problem creating both anyway?

I don't use FM on a regular basis and I've only been exposed to older versions, but I would expect it could create both formats.

I usually think of three main reasons for using XML (extended HTML) output over PDF (other people may choose for different reasons):

1) Screen format -- using style sheets you can create a dynamic output that "looks" better on the screen to any user, regardless of the size display or type of device they're using to access the information.

2) Navigation -- you can place bookmarks and hot-links in PDF documents, but navigation and multi-part screens that allow navigation within and outside the document "web space" is a little more flexible in web-based documents.

3) Multimedia content -- integration of multimedia elements into web-based documentation is a bit easier than with PDF documents.

However, there's one big disadvantage to creating documents exclusively in web-based format: printed output. If your users will need to print the document on paper for use away from the computer, I would strongly encourage that you offer a PDF option. You might have to create _both_ PDF and HTML (XML) versions for your audience to get maximum usability, but if you expect users to print out web pages you owe it to them to offer a PDF option. Of course, some documentation is pointless or useless without being on the computer, so in certain cases it's not practical to expect users to print the documents. In those cases, foregoing the PDF version may be acceptable.

Hope this helps

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