Re: Give Clients Softcopy?

Subject: Re: Give Clients Softcopy?
From: Steven Jong <SteveJong -at- AOL -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 14 Nov 1996 18:20:28 -0500

Date: Wed, 13 Nov 1996 10:20:06 -0500
From: Pete Holman <pete -dot- holman -at- GLBSOFT -dot- COM>
Subject: Give Clients Softcopy?

Pete Holman <pete -dot- holman -at- GLBSOFT -dot- COM> asked about providing softcopy source
files to clients. As it happens, we were discussing this very topic just
today. One of my colleagues is in that boat, and it's been a choppy ride.
Here's what's happened so far...

1) We created a six-page release notes document, including half a dozen
screen shots and some callouts, which the client wanted Right Now.

2) After we delivered it, the client wanted soft copy. We provided a
PostScript file, which our print vendor has always accepted happily. The
client couldn't print it, and asked for the source file.

(I should say at this point that the document was created using Microsoft
Word 6 and a custom template, and the graphics were included by reference
(linked in) and annotated using Word's own callout facility. (I know, I know
-- that's the root cause right there 8^( Anyway, the narrative continues...)

3) We provided the source file (over my objections), taking care to embed
every graphic and include every font. The client couldn't see it properly;
the format was messed up and the graphics and callouts were wrong.

(I should also interject that the client is using Word 7, which we don't
have. We found someone with Word 7, and discovered that we had to include the
template along with the document itself for the formatting to be preserved.)

4) We sent the template too. The client still couldn't read it; the graphics
were still wrong. We discovered that the graphics and callouts did indeed
suffer some problems when going from Word 6 to Word 7 (the root problem is
still undetermined).

5) Then the client mentioned putting it on an intranet... and my colleague
went home.

These six pages have already been far more trouble than they were worth. In
addition to the problems I've already mentioned, the client has had problems
(a) printing a standard PostScript file, (b) reading a Zip archive, and (c)
receiving files attached to mail. What a hassle!

We've had similar requests from internal sources to "put the document on the
server so everyone can print their own copies." We're finding that it's not
easily done, because of the linked graphics, templates, and fonts. Even if we
took the extra step of embedding everything, people printing their own copies
are tying up laser printers (which are slower and more expensive than
photocopy machines). The only thing that's more convenient is for them to
view documents on line; but the reason we stopped embedding graphics in the
first place was that Word was choking on the files!

At the heart of our struggle is a serious problem: We've given a client (or
put onto our server) source files and our templates. I feel this is analogous
to engineers giving someone who wanted a copy of an application the source
code, macro library, and compiler.

I don't want to sound like a dinosaur about online documentation. I'd love to
go to Web-based documents, but our products are primarily character-cell
based. What good is a Web-based document to a user who's using a VT terminal?
The requests are all for the convenience of the requester, which triggers
lots of effort on our part and at best results in something that's more
inconvenient to use.

Wouldn't you agree that giving out source files is a Bad Idea?

-- Steve

Steven Jong, Documentation Group Leader ("Typo? What tpyo?")
Lightbridge, Inc, 281 Winter St., Waltham, MA 02154 USA
<jong -at- lightbridge -dot- com>, 617.672.4902 [voice], 617.890.2681 [FAX]

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