RE: Using tables for content

Subject: RE: Using tables for content
From: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: Lynne Wright <Lynne -dot- Wright -at- tiburoninc -dot- com>, Sean <seanb_us -at- yahoo -dot- com>, "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 24 Oct 2013 13:55:46 -0400

I actually used a table for numbered steps in a couple of Quick Start Guides.
But it was a visual-presentation thing.
The QSG was mostly for the hardware setup before getting to software/system config (in another doc).
So most of the QSG steps had a bit of text in one column, and a graphic (photo or drawing) on the same row in the next column.
Then, I added a third, left-most column for the big, colored step numbers.
The whole idea was that it be primarily visual (since it was simple hardware racking and hookups, etc.)

In the main docs, all procedures were just ordinary ordered lists using the numbering features of the tool (Frame, Word, Flare).

BUT, one place in the main docs, where I found tables to be useful was when two or more components/systems/roles were involved.
Tables were a good way to present the stages of a sequence of events as rows, with the states or actions of each participant shown in that participant's column.

So, for example, I might start the whole thing off with a row showing the starting states of three devices, each in a cell in a column for just that device.
Those would be the second, third, and fourth columns of the table. The first column is for an action or event, and that's blank on the first row... 'cuz nuthin's happenin' yet.
Then, on the second row, an action is described in the left-most column, possibly with a new state description appearing in one of the entity columns, while the other two entity cells contain the same description as on the row above... 'cuz nuthin' has affected them yet.
The third row would now have the next action by somebody, and the relevant entity cells in that row would change, or not, to show their state/reaction to that latest action.

So, all the way down the table, the first column would have "So-and-so does this...", "So-and-so does that...", "This guy and that guy do this...", "All three take a union break...".

That's about the only situation where I've ever done a procedure in third-person.
My other approach, if there are just two entities, would be a sequence of mini-"procedures", alternating the point of view (like Appliance-side, Client-side), where each switch in point of view would be set off by an h3 or h4, and contain one-or-more numbered steps. Yes, I just said that I sometimes have a mini-procedure with just one numbered step in it. Numbered.... "1" as it happens. I do that intentionally, to preserve the parallelism. I prefer that to making up some bogus division of one step into two, just so I won't have a single-numbered-step somewhere. Yes.... I know... many of you hate me now. I'll try to bear up, under the strain of all that opprobrium.

Cheers!



-----Original Message-----
From: t Lynne Wright
Sent: October-24-13 11:09 AM
To: Sean; techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: RE: Using tables for content

Are you asking whether it's a good idea to format a procedure (ie. a series of numbered steps that you follow to perform a task) as a table?

If so, I can't think of any advantages.

Aside from the obvious disadvantage of having to manually number each step, putting instructions in a grid form creates a dense block of information, so its harder to visually track/keep your place within the block of information.



-----Original Message-----
From: Sean
Sent: Thursday, October 24, 2013 9:45 AM
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: Using tables for content

Hi all,

So, whilst I search the archives, can we have a live discussion on the pros and cons of using tables for tech writing content. Consider a traditional procedure that uses step: in the left column, the action, and in the right column, the result. It seems, for Word, each row needs to be numbered manually.

Conversely, there is standard ordered list approach without using a table.

Thoughts?

Sean




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References:
Using tables for content: From: Sean
RE: Using tables for content: From: Lynne Wright

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