Re: Online vs. Hardcopy documentation

Subject: Re: Online vs. Hardcopy documentation
From: "Wing, Michael J" <mjwing -at- INGR -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 26 Jul 1996 08:25:37 -0500

>From: Tim Altom[SMTP:taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET]
>Sent: Thursday, July 25, 1996 9:56 PM
>To: Multiple recipients of list TECHWR-L
>Subject: Re: Online vs. Hardcopy documetation

>>There will, for some time to come, be a solid place for those who choose to
>>specialize in printed docs. But the wave of the future, offering IMNSHO the
>>greatest opportunities for almost unlimited varieties of presentational
>>style, will be on-line multimedia.

>You didn't mention the biggest single driver in all of this: cost.
>Paper or
>online doc have always been irritating to most companies, because it's
>overhead, like insurance and legal help. What's driving companies
>toward the
>Web and other similar solutions isn't the good of the end user so much
>as an
>evaluation of how much INconvenience the end user will tolerate and

I would also like to add the time and effort spent in writing, editing,
producing, and distributing updates to paper documents. With modular
help and particularly with web-style documents, updates can be handled
more efficiently than with paper documents. The updates can be sent to
customers electronically and directly replace their existing
documentation. No more addendum pages, change pages, and errata sheets.

I am especially looking forward to moving our documentation to a
web-style medium. I think the interaction with other programs (demo
software, animation, customer interaction, and so forth) present some
open doors to document design, functionality, updates, and presentation.

I left the printed document over a year ago. The trepidation I had over
possibly losing familiar document characteristics such as top-down
procedures, page numbering, and the comfortable feeling of sitting back
with a printed manual and a coffee were quickly allayed by the
flexibility of on-line documentation. For example, with the online
document, I no longer have to nest procedures (to handle user choices)
within another procedure or force the user to keep their thumbs on other
pages. Instead, a link would take the user to a secondary window where
the nested procedure was presented side-by-side with the main procedure.

So much of the usability of your document depends on the audience. To
find information quickly, I would rather use electronic indices,
full-text search, and hypertext than scan each page listed in the index
(while anchoring a thumb on the index page). For an abstract or
technical discussion of the product, I would much rather have a printed
document (otherwise, I usually resort to cutting and pasting relevant
information from on-line documents into a text file and then printing
the text file).

True, the on-line documents don't provide the same artistic qualities
when printed when compared to documents formatted for print. As far as
sitting back with the document in my lap, I guess I'll have to use a
>laptop or a printout. However, the coffee is still the same.

Mike Wing

>_/ Michael Wing
>_/ Principal Technical Writer
>_/ Jupiter Customization and Educational Services
>_/ Intergraph Corporation
>_/ 730-7250
>_/ mjwing -at- ingr -dot- com

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