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Subject:On-line vs. paper documentation From:Joan -dot- M -dot- Laflamme -dot- 2 -at- ND -dot- EDU Date:Tue, 9 Mar 1993 14:47:34 -0600
First, an introduction...
I'm the documentation coordinator/technical editor at the Office of
University Computing, University of Notre Dame. I'm also a free-lance book
editor, but that is a different story.
I don't agree with Christian Walters, who said, "Seems like the old paper
docs were fine in their day. But now . . . there is NO WAY a novice user
(or many experienced users) are going to flip through a big book, not to
mention a whole stack of big books to find out how to save their file to a
different name or change their working directory or whatever."
At least I don't agree that the day for paper documents is gone. I do agree
that novice computer users won't wade through stacks of paper documents to
learn how to perform relatively trivial computer tasks, but then, if the
paper documents were well written, users wouldn't have to, would they?
On-line documentation that is poorly written will confuse and irritate
novices just as quickly.
Sometimes a well-written hardcopy is just what I want; other times on-line
documentation is more useful. It depends on what I'm trying to do. The key,
though, is well written.
We are beginning to post some of our documents to our campus information
service, which runs on Gopher software. That creates all kinds of new
problems because of the ASCII format. With no graphics and limited options
for formatting, documents need some special care before uploading. Just
dumping them won't work at all, at least not if you want to post something
readable. It is an interesting challenge.
Now, on to a question. Our hardcopy documentation is done in MS-Word or
PageMaker on a Macintosh IIci. That works very well for Macintosh
documentation, but we also provide documents for other platforms--DOS,
Windows, NeXT, Sun SPARCstation, VM, MVS, and so on. When the writer
captures a screen, let's say, and makes it part of the document on one of
those platforms, or saves it as a separate graphic, I have a lot of trouble
importing it into MS-Word. I can do it, but only with lots of steps
involving importing to WordPerfect for the Mac, exporting again, cleaning
up reversed images in PhotoShop, and finally inserting the graphic into
Word. It should be easier! If the writer sends the graphic in EPS, I can't
see it in Word to edit it or change the white space around it (a problem if
the writer didn't define the boundaries so the image fills the space
specified for the graphic).
Forgive me if you are on a list where I've brought this problem up before,
but I spend (waste?) a lot of time on these graphics conversions and keep
thinking there must be someone out there with a simple answer.
Sorry to be so wordy. I've violated my own rule for list postings--If it is
longer than one screen, I'm not interested.
Joan Marie Laflamme
Documentation Coordinator University of Notre Dame
Office of University Computing Notre Dame, IN 46556
G044 CCMB 219-631-8679 FAX 219-631-8201
Internet:Joan -dot- M -dot- Laflamme -dot- 2 -at- nd -dot- edu
BITNET: Jlaflamm -at- Irishvma