Re: Which is first: online or paper?

Subject: Re: Which is first: online or paper?
From: "Janet S. Myers" <Janet -dot- Myers-1 -at- TC -dot- UMN -dot- EDU>
Date: Tue, 5 Mar 1996 06:37:20 -0600

Sun, 3 Mar 1996, Jane Bergen wrote:
>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?
>try as I might, I simply cannot use the same "entity" for both <snip>
>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. <snip>
>If I convert online to paper,it ends up sounding choppy
>and missing something. Maybe I just have a pro-paper bias.

I?ve written both ways and haven?t decided which is better. I was hired
for the current job on the understanding that the project required only
online help. That changed to include a user manual that could be printed
from the same file--preferably by the user from within the software I?m
documenting. (It turned out that, because of both technical constraints
and some company standards for hard copy documentation, we must ship the
user manual as a printed document.)

Because of the initial emphasis, I drafted the online help first using WfW6
and Robohelp. I then filled in the file with elements that belong only in
the hardcopy document. The hardcopy-only elements have no context strings
or references to or from online help elements. I organized the topics in
the order they will appear in the user guide.

For final production and cleanup, I?ll have two separate documents, but
until then, the single document and a list of hardcopy ?fixes? seems to be
working well. When I do produce the hard copy, I?ll need to insert screen
shots and merge information from diverse topics into single topics. For
example, in the background information when I explain that this product is
one of several tools in a larger toolkit, the other tools are described in
popups. In the introduction to the user guide, I?ll include the popup
information as part of the main text. The user guide will also include
more introductory material to major sets of procedures, but the individual
procedures should be the same in both documents.

In past projects, I?ve drafted the user guide first and copied the
procedural information pretty much verbatim to the online help. In those
projects, online and hardcopy started and ended as separate files. I think
the way I?m working now will make it easier to keep the information in the
two documents in synch.

Janet Myers
myers032 -at- maroon -dot- tc -dot- umn -dot- edu


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