Re: Manuals on CD-ROM

Subject: Re: Manuals on CD-ROM
From: Tim O'Neill <budjit -at- DATAPLUSNET -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 24 Jan 1996 13:45:41 -0600

Kent Newton wrote:

> Hello all,

> Our company is investigating the possibility of distributing our manuals
> on CD-ROM, possibly as an adjunct to paper distribution or possibly (to
> my dismay) as a replacement for the paper distribution.

Good idea, my suggestion would be to reformat your existing printed manuals using a software tool that will enable you to
prepare the individual documents once, and direct the output three ways...a printer, a CD-ROM, and WWW. That might not be
easy or inexpensive, but if you choose to go that route, you are building a process that will allow you to reduce future
costs associated with redundancy.

> Anyway, I was wondering if anyone on the list has had experience with
> this. Is it practical?

Yes, it is practical but perhaps will require a cultural change in how your company looks at, and provides committment to
your documentation program.

< What are the drawbacks?

Before you can complete the turnaround, your management might have a change of need to demonstrate creatively
that you are making incremental improvements but the big payoff is at the end.

> What should we look for
> in regards to technology?

I would look at SGML, but software like Interleaf and Framemaker allow you to "conditionally" prepare documents for variable
output. Interleaf calls it "active documents" which react to events, perhaps displaying a document in French if the
person logged in is configured as a French speaking person. This is only a simple example.

I would also read about and investigate how people are using desktop and/or client server database management software to do
publishing. You are in Milwaukee aren't you? Maybe I can put you in touch with some good people.

> Should we approach it like on-line help with
> hyperlinks, or should we simply set it up like a manual and use a keyword
> search engine?

Preparing your documents properly will include tagging them with hyperlinks and attributes (information about information),
that will build a full-text index when you are done. Framemaker output might become Adobe Acrobat or FrameView, Interleaf
output might become Interleaf Worldview or Acrobat.

The key is to plan your documents and build links up front...

> And so on and so on and so on. In other words, I know
> nothing about it and could use all the collective advice and suggestions
> you have.

> I'd appreciate your help.

None of us know it all, and there are a lot of choices and chances to buy into obsolete technology. Keep us
is my business and livelihood but I will be glad to help when possible.

> Kent Newton
> Senior Technical Writer
> Metrix, Inc.
> kentn -at- metrix-inc -dot- com

|Tim O'Neill New Media Publishing Services|
|BudJit Graphics budjit -at- dataplusnet -dot- com|
|Howards Grove, Wisconsin USA |

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