Re: Which is first: online or paper?

Subject: Re: Which is first: online or paper?
From: "Susan W. Gallagher" <sgallagher -at- EXPERSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 4 Mar 1996 14:56:29 -0800

At 03:55 PM 3/3/96 +0000, Jane Bergen wrote:
>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 prefer to start with paper -- only because the structure of the
paper book is far less dependent on the functionality of the
software than the online help is. I have, actually, completely
discarded an online help file constructed for beta and started
from scratch for the released product. It was a small product,
but it had changed *so much* from beta to release (wizards to
tab dialogs, etc.) that the prospect of rearranging the help
file just overwhelmed me. Then, too, the *type* of information
I put in the help file is far more specific. Conceptual info
in the paper manual doesn't depend so critically on the name
and order of the fields in the final version of the product.

>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. . . .

I agree. Paper manuals, online help, and online documentation are
three distinct animals! I would *never* try to single-source a
paper manual and a context-sensitive help file. I did *almost*
single-source paper and online docs -- but, at the end, did
a lot of rearranging because the transitional text that you
put between procedures in a paper book just doesn't stand alone
between two procedures. So, I ended up collecting series of
transitionals into a single topic and jumping to child windows
for the associated procedures.

>If I convert my paper to online, I have a lot of clean-up to do
>because I believe the online should be much leaner and meaner than
>paper. Also, I can't use the same document for printed as for online
>because I often have to use "keep-with-next" in paragraph
>formatting, then go hunting to remove it all for Doc-to-help.

Yup. That too. And I use a lot of Keep Togethers, which, in online
help, turn into non-wrapping text. Messy. And I use a lot of marginal
notes as entry points into the text -- these really don't have any
counterparts online.

>If I convert online to paper,it ends up sounding choppy
>and missing something. Maybe I just have a pro-paper bias. Please
>don't misunderstand. I'm not trying to start another holy war about
>online vs. paper. I'm just trying to learn about the methodology
>involved in managing both.

I don't think it's a paper-bias at all! With me, anyway, it's the
recognition that the two media are completely different and the
desire to use each to their best advantage. I hate compromises,
especially where user benefits are concerned.

-Sue Gallagher
sgallagher -at- expersoft -dot- com

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