Re: Manuals on CD-ROM (...LONG...)

Subject: Re: Manuals on CD-ROM (...LONG...)
From: Debbie -dot- Lemasters -at- MARCAM -dot- COM
Date: Thu, 25 Jan 1996 12:41:51 -0500


>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.

Yes, it's practical. You didn't say what you're using today as your
authoring tool or how much you have invested in your software and
manuals. It is very expensive in terms of elapsed time and committed
headcount to convert books from one authoring tool to another.
(Some conversions are easier than others but my point is that it's not trivial.
That's why so many people are intrigued by SGML).

You also only mention CD-ROM. You didn't mention what machines
your users are likely to have (PCs, Macs, UNIX?)

I only know part of the story but here's what I do know. . . .

General thoughts:

1) You have to decide whether you want to make your source files
available to the public. Your company may have legal issues with
making your source files public.

2) If you can't ship your source files, you can make a viewable
file from a PostScript version of your documents. See the Adobe
section (below).

3) Are your books translated? If so, how do you handle it? Are they
separate books? Would you need to distribute them on your CD?
Are the authoring tools the same worldwide? These answers could
affect your decisions.

4) Do you need to make your CD available with the availability of
the product? Do you plan to make the files ready for CD pressing
yourself? Will you contract the work? Cost and time constraints will
influence your decisions.

5) Do you have any unique requirements that only one product
serves well? For example, IBM's BookManager works on the PC
as well as its midrange computer, AS/400, and its mainframes. I
haven't kept up with BookManager since I left IBM but it may be an
option. I believe you can enable Word and WordPerfect files
for viewing with BookManager.

6) Does your user want to view a book locally (from the CD drive
or the hard drive) or over a LAN (from a CD drive or a hard drive)?
The CD we're shipping with FrameViewer lets the user view the
books locally (CD drive or hard drive) or from a LAN hard drive.
(We don't mention a LAN CD drive, but I suppose that's possible.)
We strongly recommend that the user install the viewer locally for
optimal response time.

7) Is there help text for your product or are the books the sole source
of information? In other words, would the CD be the only source of

Source: If your documents are in Word today, you can view the source
documents with one of Microsoft's viewers: MediaView and Word Viewer.
Your users can look at your Word files with one of these viewers without
needing a copy of Word 6.0.

For more information about MediaView 1.41, see:

For more information about Word Viewer, see:

I don't remember whether these viewers are free, whether you can
redistribute them, or whether users must download their own copies.
I also don't know what work might be involved in enabling a Word
document for viewing with one of these viewers; my assumption is
that there is no preparation work.

I'm not sure what hyperlinks you get "for free" and which you must go
back and enable by hand.

I think these viewers only work on PC or Mac.

PostScript: You can create a PostScript version of your entire book,
use Adobe Acrobat to make a *.PDF file. See Adobe discussion.

WordPerfect, QuarkXpress, PageMaker
I don't know. I'm sure you can use the PostScript file with Adobe Acrobat.
See Adobe discussion.

Ventura Publisher
Source: There is no viewer that you can use with Ventura Publisher
source files.

PostScript: I'm sure you can use the PostScript file with Adobe Acrobat.
See Adobe discussion.

FrameMaker or FrameBuilder
Source: If your documents are in FrameMaker or FrameBuilder today,
you can view the source documents with Frame Technology Corporation's
(now Adobe Systems, Inc.) viewer: FrameViewer. Your users can look
at your Frame files with FrameViewer without needing a copy of
FrameMaker or FrameBuilder.

For more information about FrameViewer, see:

I have heard of something called FrameReader but I don't know what it is.
I actually thought FrameReader was no longer available but I continue to
hear comments about it on the framers discussion list.

FrameViewer is not free. You pay Frame/Adobe a license fee. We
have a contract with Frame/Adobe to redistribute FrameViewer. I found
them to be very willing to negotiate and very willing to use a price structure
that makes sense; for example, we price by the size of the target machine
our users have, not by the seat.

For "free" (meaning no additional work), you get hyperlinks from
cross-references and from entries in the table of contents and the index.

An advantage to Frame is that the source files are binary compatible.
FrameViewer can run across all the platforms that the authoring tools
can run on, which is 27 platforms if I remember correctly, including:
PC, Mac, UNIX.

PostScript: You can create a PostScript version of your entire book,
use Adobe Acrobat to make a *.PDF file. See Adobe discussion.

Source: If your documents are in InterLeaf today, you can't view the
source files directly.

Interleaf's compilation step: You can view Interleaf documents with
WorldView after you go through a processing step. Your users can look
at your books with WorldView without needing a copy of Interleaf.

For more information about WorldView, see:

WorldView is not free. You pay Interleaf a license fee. From my
experience, the fee is 10 X what the FrameViewer fee is (yes, 10 times).

I believe WorldView can run across many platforms. But I would
double-check that.

PostScript: You can create a PostScript version of your entire book,
use Adobe Acrobat to make a *.PDF file. See Adobe discussion.

It seems everyone is distributing their books on the World Wide Web
with Adobe's Acrobat Reader. Netscape even plans to bundle
Acrobat Reader with its WWW browser.

For more information about Acroabt Reader, see:

Also a tutorial on using Acrobat Reader is available on the web:

Advantages: you would not be shipping your source file.
(Actually we want to ship our source files so that our affiliates
can develop training for our products from our books. They
develop tailor-made booklets for the customers that want them.)

The Acrobat Reader is free. Adobe Systems, Inc. allows you to
redistribute it.

Electronic Book Technologies (EBT)
EBT has two products, DynaWeb abd DynaText, which are
both based on SGML. I don't know too much about the
products or the company.

For more information about Electronic Book Technologies, see:

>Anyway, I was wondering if anyone on the list has had experience with
>this. Is it practical? What are the drawbacks? What should we look for
>in regards to technology? 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? 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 would suggest a phased approach.

1) Enable the documents for viewing from the CD with what you
get "for free". The CD itself is enough of a hurdle.

2) Look at adding additional links that make sense for your books,
such as links to other books or to launchable objects. . .whatever.

3) Redesign your information to optimize for viewing on-line.
This means breaking the traditional "linear" paradigm of printed books
and exploring a "web" of information that contains nodes of related
information. This last option is the most time-consuming because it
requires you to rethink how you organize your information and to
predict what information the user wants to see from each "node".

Hope that helps.

Debbie Lemasters
debbie -dot- lemasters -at- marcam -dot- com

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