Re. Online vs. paper manual

Subject: Re. Online vs. paper manual
From: geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA
Date: Mon, 1 Apr 1996 12:21:35 -0600

Melinda Carr asked how to resolve the issue of duplication
between online and printed versions of a software manual.
I'd like to make the following distinction:

Online: context-sensitive, and relatively comprehensive.
(Since the size and duplication cost for the files isn't a
problem, make as much information available as possible.)
For example, hitting the system's help key should provide
help for the currently active window or dialog; this should
include optional access to a detailed reference for every
field in the dialog or item in the menus for that window.

Paper: general philosophies, tutorials, overviews, how to
combine features of the software to accomplish larger
tasks. Also include a "How to use online help" section! For
example, no description of the "cut" (or "copy") and
"paste" commands per se, but rather a discussion of how to
use these commands to create multiple copies, to move text
around, and to transfer text between two programs.

For example, could you organize your online information
into separate "books", one based on reference material
(e.g., what values a field can accept) and one based on
tasks (e.g., combining various typographic functions to
format a page template). I have no specific recommendations
on how to make this separation efficient... does anyone
else?

I'm making these suggestions based solely on my personal
experience as a user of online help, and I haven't tested
the effectiveness of my proposed dichotomy. Treat them only
as the starting point for a discussion. I'd love to hear
from others who have more experience in this area. Jared,
are you reading this? <grin>

--Geoff Hart @8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

Disclaimer: If I didn't commit it in print in one of our
reports, it don't represent FERIC's opinion.


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