RE: Hyperlinks in PDF -- should they be visible or not?

Subject: RE: Hyperlinks in PDF -- should they be visible or not?
From: David Neeley <dbneeley -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Wed, 20 Jan 2010 12:29:37 +0200

Jessica,

First, I was somewhat confused by your statement: "I create two
different PDFs, one optimized
> for screen viewing (with hyperlinks and page images on the side and all
> that) and one optimized for the screen, with no visible hyperlinks and
> an index.>

If it is both a matter of viewing on screen, I think it would be
foolish to assume a user would thank you for hiding hyperlinks if they
are at all pertinent and useful. I would regard that as a severe
deficiency, personally--speaking as a long-time computer and manual
user.

Furthermore, I have created a few indexes in my time--and they do not
substitute for hyperlinks at the relevant sections--users often don't
think to consult the index, while it is much faster and more
convenient where there is a tricky bit to click on the link for
further information. I also like indexes in addition to the
hyperlinks, as it is used somewhat differently and is another avenue
into the material covered--to me, it is by no means an "either/or"
situation. In fact, I seriously considered becoming a professional
indexer for some time, and it is only by the smallest of margins that
I did not in fact do so.

Instead, an intra-text hyperlink is more appropriately thought of as a
form of reference footnote in the traditional print world.

Now, if the object is to make a printed copy of the "clean" (URL
hidden) version--a few rather simple questions:

1) Are the hyperlinks helpful to some users?

-->If not, eliminate them entirely.
-->If so, the next question:

2) Can you be sure that everyone who gets their hands on a printed
manual will have a copy of the electronic .pdf also?

-->If not, why deprive the paper-only customer from the helpful hyperlink?
-->If so, the next question:

3) Can you be sure the user consulting the paper version will check
the electronic one to see if he or she might be missing a hyperlink?

-->If not, why hide it in the paper version?
-->If so, the next question:

4) Why have the paper version at all?

Any way you proceed with this one, I see absolutely no reason for not
having a visible (and obviously distinctive) treatment of hyperlinks
in either the onscreen or the print version.

To say "It doesn't look right"--to whom? Certainly not to users of
manuals I have known (and been!).

Finally, I have on occasion actually typed in a hyperlink into my
browser that I received in a printed article, manual, or other book.
At the time, I was not in any way upset or disappointed for having to
do so--and, from time to time, I actually profited from the extra
labor involved.

In short, I think the idea of hiding hyperlinks is rather silly when
you really examine the issue--either they are helpful, so they belong
there in an obvious fashion, or they aren't--in which case eliminate
them entirely.

Otherwise, if you go with a version having hidden hyperlinks--in the
interest of full disclosure, why not begin the manual with this
statement:

"We have included lots of helpful hyperlinks scattered throughout the
manual. To increase your enjoyment, simply mouse over each page line
by line to be sure you haven't missed one!"

I am quite sure that will go over very well.

David


> From: "Jessica Weissman" <Jessica -dot- Weissman -at- hillcrestlabs -dot- com>
> To: "voxwoman" <voxwoman -at- gmail -dot- com>, "Viv Crawford" <viv_crawford -at- hotmail -dot- com>
> Date: Tue, 19 Jan 2010 08:28:12 -0500
> Subject: RE: Hyperlinks in PDF -- should they be visible or not?
> For our API documentation, I create two different PDFs, one optimized
> for screen viewing (with hyperlinks and page images on the side and all
> that) and one optimized for the screen, with no visible hyperlinks and
> an index. The PDFs are named to indicate their use.
>
> Help & Manual has both forms of PDF output available easily, as well as
> several varieties of electronic book output that I also create.
>
> Our in-house developers tend to use the electronic book, new customers
> tend to use the screen-optimized PDF, and the sales guys tend to hand
> out excerpts of the print-optimized version to prospective customers.
>
> -  Jessica
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