PDFs as online help?

Subject: PDFs as online help?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L Writing <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, Nancy Allison <maker -at- verizon -dot- net>
Date: Wed, 08 Jul 2009 10:41:16 -0400

Nancy Allison wondered: <<Do any of you use PDFs for your online help?
Is it possible to link to topics within a PDF for context-sensitive

I don't, but it's definitely possible.

Whether you would want to do this is a very different question;
choosing PDF sacrifices the ability to let users choose the window
size and the typeface/size font combination that works best for them,
which is an important consideration in online help. If you do opt for
PDF, make sure that you optimize it for onscreen use (as I did in my
book); there are few things quite so annoying as having to constantly
scroll through and zoom in/out when the PDF is designed for printing
(portrait format, small fonts) rather than on-screen display.

<<PDFs are attractive to me, for use as an online help system, because
you can control the display of special characters in them. You can be
sure what your end user will see.>>

In most cases, you should be able to control these characters simply
by specifying the correct character set (in the HTML header) and the
correct HTML entities for these characters in that character set.
Details: http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/sgml/entities.html

Geoff Hart (www.geoff-hart.com)
ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca / geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com
Effective Onscreen Editing:


Free Software Documentation Project Web Cast: Covers developing Table of
Contents, Context IDs, and Index, as well as Doc-To-Help
2009 tips, tricks, and best practices.

Help & Manual 5: The complete help authoring tool for individual
authors and teams. Professional power, intuitive interface. Write
once, publish to 8 formats. Multi-user authoring and version control! http://www.helpandmanual.com/

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PDFs as online help?: From: Nancy Allison

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