from zero doc control to pub dates

Subject: from zero doc control to pub dates
From: "Pamela Denchfield" <PamelaD -at- onyx -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 5 Sep 2007 11:33:54 -0700

Hello fellow techwhirlers,

Any gotchas I should be aware of when adding publication dates to uncontrolled PDF manuals? For software manuals, are publication dates typically identical to software release dates to "avoid looking strange" to customers?

The documentation department I belong to has historically omitted publication dates from manuals, relying on the "Date Modified" property of the PDF file to indicate this information. PDF files are delivered on software CDs and updated PDF files are posted on the customer portal page of our website. Document control version indicators are absent.

I proposed adding publication dates to the manuals so that customers and internal folks would have another way to confirm that their manual was the latest. For one thing, if a customer prints the manual, they may not want to visit our customer portal to check the date, and they won't even have a way to confirm a match or mismatch without knowing what the differences are. (Document control is another matter for another day.)

Today the documentation department agreed on the following practices:

* Include the phrase "Published September 5, 2007" on the copyright page, at the bottom of the page to visually distinguish it from the "legalese" paragraphs at the top of the page (type the PDF publish date instead of using a saved-date variable). The idea of a date or other control indicator on every page was rejected.

* If this document is for an upcoming software release, change the date to the software release date. >>I wonder if this is typical practice.

* Do not track versions of the document as our department is still defining what constitutes a new document versus a document revision (title changes and other things being considered). For example, an "ABC User Manual" created today would say "Published September 5, 2007" and an updated "ABC User Manual" (or "ABC User Guide") created a month from now would say "Published October 5, 2007" with no indication that the document is a revision.

* Add an action to the final output checklist to confirm the above publication date.

Have any of you been down this road before, going "from zero document control to publication dates"? Any issues I should be aware of? Please note that I'm on the daily digest list, so send messages directly to me (in addition to the list) if you'd like a speedy reply.


Pamela Denchfield 
Sr. Technical Writer, Onyx
Consona CRM
E-mail: pamelad -at- onyx -dot- com
Direct: +1 (425) 250-5817
Fax: +1 (317) 249-1942
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