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Subject:"Notes" column in the manual?!? From:Jim Grey <jwg -at- ACD4 -dot- ACD -dot- COM> Date:Wed, 8 Jun 1994 10:14:30 -0500
My company's training department wants our manuals to include a column
on every page for notes. They claim that our customers have regularly
asked for this, so they can write notes during class.
Training uses our manuals as teaching tools. They actually teach *from* some
manuals -- it is a corporate goal to free trainers from writing "student
guides", and to have our manuals serve as course written material.
My tactic so far has been to ask, "The manuals ought to be complete as
is. What notes are they writing? Those notes might show a deficiency
that we can fix." Still, the trainers persist.
Our manuals are on 8.5x11-inch paper with 1 inch margins. Section titles
are 18 point Helvetica bold, subheadings are 14 point Helvetica bold,
subsubheadings are 12 point Helvetica bold, body text is 12 point New
Century Schoolbook. Each section begins with a title 2 inches from the top
margin. Body text, figures, and tables are 1.75 inches from the left margin.
Subheadings, figure titles, and table titles fit in the space between the left
margin and the 1.75-inch text boundary. For example:
| PRELIMINARY Frobniz User's Guide 1 |
| Section One - Read This First! |
| This is a command-level guide |
| to the Frobniz. |
| What is the The Frobniz is an event |
| Frobniz? modeling and management tool. |
| You can do all sorts of stuff |
We developed this layout to mimic the typical uneven-column, headers to the
left/text to the right layout. We like having topic headings well offset for
easy skim and scan. We like the good active white space to help guide the
eye. We find that readers understand this format without any explanation of
how to use it. We even carefully chose the body text width to fall between 2
and 2.5 alphabets, because of references that indicated that this line width
can generally be read in one eye scan.
The trainers call for a 2-inch (or so) Notes column on the outer edge of the
page. I've spent the morning playing with existing documents, trying to
add such a thing. It ruins the visual effect of this layout. I've tried
retaining the 2-2.5 alphabet body text width by reducing the left column
width and moving the headings to above their first paragraph. I've tried
smaller fonts. None of this has helped much. I end up with cramped pages.
I've even tried telling the trainers to have students mark in the AMPLE
white space, but they reject that notion, because long left-column heading
titles take up too much note-taking space.
I respect their request. But I just do NOT want to add this "Notes" column
if it means compromising manual usability.
I have these questions:
o Does anybody have a "Notes" area on their manual pages? How are your
manuals formatted to accommodate this?
o Has anybody had to handle this request before? How did you deal with
jim grey |"Ain't nothin' better in the world, you know
jwg -at- acd4 -dot- acd -dot- com |Than lyin' in the sun, listenin' to the radio" - D. Boone
jimgrey -at- delphi -dot- com|GO/M d p+ c++(-) l u+ e- m*@ s+/ n+ h f++ g- w+@ t+ r- y+(*)
|ACD, Terre Haute, IN -- The Silicon Cornfield