HTML Guides? (Take II)

Subject: HTML Guides? (Take II)
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, quills -at- airmail -dot- net
Date: Sun, 09 Apr 2006 09:02:37 -0400

Scott Turner notes, that in moving to HTML: <<You are about to forgo control over the appearance of the text, and exact placement of graphics. In fact, you lose all presentation control in moving to HTML.>>

Many good points, particularly if you use only basic HTML, but several points require some clarification to provide some nuance.

You can get around typographic and positioning problems without much difficulty. Simple use of CSS lets you get around the typographic problems, at least to some extent, though you may have to do a bit of juggling to provide different style sheets for each browser, since they don't all interprest CSS the same way. Arguably, the lack of control over typography is a good thing, since it lets the use choose the font that is most effective for them: with CSS, you can define your preferred fonts, but users can override those controls in some browsers.

As for graphics, you can accomplish fairly remarkable things about positioning using tables with a little thought and experimentation. Where the utmost in integration of text and graphics is necessary, it's fairly easy to create the resulting composite graphic in a graphics program, then save it in the appropriate graphics format. The key here is to make the effort to analyze each situation to determine whether the graphic and text should be allowed to float, or whether they should be constrained and locked into position. Different situations call for different solutions.

<<You also lose any security you may have used in PDF files.>>

Security is vastly overrated, particularly in the context of documentation. The only people who could have any possible interest in our documentation are the people who have purchased the products it describes. And our competitors, I suppose, but that's what copyright is for. If users decide to modify our HTML files, well that's no different from them taking a ruler and pen and putting lines through printed manuals, then writing their own instructions over top.

PDF security is also highly overrated; there are plenty of password crackers out there (do a Google), at least for older versions of Acrobat, and once you have a high-resolution PDF available on the screen, any competent OCR program should be able to turn it quickly into editable text. Indeed, there are programs that work directly from PDF, without all that tedious scanning.

<<Depending on the tool you use to create your HTML files you may find considerable bloating of the file with extraneous code (e.g. Microsoft Word stuffs enormous amounts of excess, useless code into HTML produced from it).>>

This is certainly true, particularly for older versions of Word. But there are solutions. Dreamweaver does a decent job of cleaning up Word's HTML, Word itself has a much-improved HTML export filter in recent versions, and you can even write a Word macro to search for and replace or eliminate the most common HTML problems that Word produces. (In effect, you save the file as HTML, open it, run the macro, then save it again _as a text file_ instead of "save as HTML".)

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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HTML Guides: From: Heidi Colonna
Re: HTML Guides: From: quills

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