Re: Which is first: online or paper?

Subject: Re: Which is first: online or paper?
From: Peter Kent <76711 -dot- 2557 -at- COMPUSERVE -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 4 Mar 1996 10:25:52 EST

>>Jane Bergen said:
Just curious.... how many of you who write both online and paper docs
for the same software start with online, then develop paper? How many
begin with paper? I've seen some interesting messages lately that
lead me to believe there might be a sizable split on this list for both

I've done this a few times, and I've always started with paper, for a number of

-It's much easier to go through review cycles using paper--it's very difficult
to review online docs. So get the paper document finished, reviewed, and
"cleaned," _then_ create the online doc.

-Once you have the finished text, you can create a good online-help system in
one week or less by importing that text and doing the linking, etc., in the
online-help authoring tool.

-Tools for creating paper docs are usually far more developed than tools for
producing online docs. They often contain features that make handling words much
easier--autotext, drag-and-drop editing, thesaurus, macros, etc., etc.

-I agree with you that online stuff is often abbreviated; it's easier to go from
the full text (paper) to the abbreviated text (online).

-Online help often has hypergraphics. If you have a help file with hypergraphics
the text is split into lots of small topics, each linked to a hotspot. I
personally think it's easier to create these small topics by picking the stuff
you need from a finished text than to take all these topics and paste them
together in some way to create a paper document.

>>I use Word and Doc-to-Help, and try as I might, I simply cannot use
the same "entity" for both as Wextech suggests. I've tried starting
with paper then online (usually easiest) and once went the other
direction. I don't know if I'm missing something here. . . .<<

All these programs now claim that you can do both online and paper at the same
time. Unfortunately there's an advertising battle going on here. One product
starts claiming it, so another does, so now all of them claim they have to. (I
know the development team that created one of these products--I won't say
which!--and they added a feature that in theory allows you to do both paper and
online. But they told me that it doesn't do a great job, but they had to add it
and claim that it does both paper and online to remain competitive with the
other products.) The fact is that paper and online docs are structured very
differently (well, to be more exact, hypertext documents--documents such as
Adobe Acrobat are a different matter, of course), and can't be created together.
Or, rather, you can't create a _good_ paper document and a _good_ online
document at the same time, though you could do a good paper document and a
mediocre online document at the same time.

Peter Kent

Peter Kent: 71601 -dot- 1266 -at- compuserve -dot- com, Coming soon, an updated and
revised Technical Writer's Freelancing Guide. E-mail for more info

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