More on chapter numbering question?

Subject: More on chapter numbering question?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L Writing <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, Ian Saunders <ISaunders -at- syntellect -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 24 Apr 2009 08:16:14 -0400

Ian Saunders wondered: <<If you have a PDF document with sequential
page numbering, that is usable online but is clearly formatted for

If you don't mean that the pages are designed in landscape format,
with type possibly larger than would be required for use in print,
then it's not truly "usable online", and you're fooling yourself if
you think it is. What you end up with is a printed document
distributed online, not an online document that is used online. I'm
not alone in giving up on such documents and printing them so I can
use them on paper.

When I designed the eBook version of my book (details in my sig line),
I specifically made the decision to present it in landscape, not
portrait, format, with large type, so that it could be read easily on
any screen down to laptop size without requiring endless scrolling (at
least one press of PageDown per page to see the whole page) or painful
squinting (because small type is illegible on the screen). With a
little window wrangling, you can even leave it open on one side of
your widescreen monitor as a reference while you work on the other side.

Is this "usable online"? Feedback has been unanimously enthusiastic
thus far, which suggests I hit my mark. Also, because I sized the
pages to work on both European and North American letter-sized paper,
it can be easily printed when that's useful; many readers seem to do
this for the occasional key page they want to hang beside their
monitor for reference. In fact, some younger readers tell me they
print two pages per page of paper from their reader software when they
want to (say) bring a chapter to work on the bus so they can read up
without having to schlep the entire 700-page printed version. I hadn't
planned on that, but it was serendipitous.

<<... would you expect its chapters and appendices to have numbers/

Yes, and for all the reasons I mentioned in my previous reply: if the
document is a single file, it's the semantic equivalent of a single
printed book. That means that knowing the numbering sequence from
reading the running header immediately tells readers who are skimming
where a given page fits into the overall book. It also means that you
can use simple cross-references such as "page 173" instead of having
to type the full heading text, which is particularly beneficial when
many headings are long enough and similar enough to require reading
the entire heading at the destination. I don't think this is a major
way people use such documents, but I've done it myself occasionally
when the search tools were pissing me off.

<<But I can't think of any reason to leave them out unless you were
using a tool that had flaky autonumbering.>>

Even then, there's no good reason. It's easy to make autonumbering
work in Word using {SEQ} codes, and I'm told (but have not tested)
that if you define your own paragraph style to use autonumbering,
without basing that style on any other style (i.e., set "based on" to
"no style"), the autonumbering works (more?) reliably.

<<Is there a usability reason for omitting them, or just a modern
trend or style issue?>>

If you break a printed document into multiple independent chunks
(topics) or files (Web sites) to turn it into an online document, then
the numbering is no longer useful, and can be potentially a usability
barrier: for the numbering to be useful, topics or files should be
named using those numbers, because if the name the reader reads ("see
Chapter 12") does not match the name of the file or chunk they're
seeking, it becomes more difficult to find the right topic/file.

The numbering also becomes non-usefully redundant, since navigation
via cross-references (include "see" references and clickable TOC or
index entries) is done by hyperlinks, not by requiring someone to skim
through a single document looking for the number in the running
header. When something no longer serves a useful purpose, it should be
deleted so readers don't have to deal with it.

Geoff Hart (
ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca / geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com
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More on chapter numbering question: From: Saunders, Ian

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