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In a message dated 97-01-23 16:27:31 EST, Rebecca Phillips wrote:
When I integrate new version changes into the manual, she would like to
include change bars (revision marker in the margin) to show where the
change has taken place in the manual. Next to the change bar, the
software version number would appear, so that you would have an exact
record of when the change was implemented. I don't mean she wants these
changes for SME reviews. She wants the CUSTOMER to get the final draft
of the manual WITH CHANGE BARS so that the customer can see the new
I am not concerned about technical issues of "how to" implement. I want
to get feedback on "whether to implement". I am concerned that this
change will interfere with the manuals' readability. She believes that
these changes are more conventional and that they will help us (one day)
get ISO9000 certification. She says that this is great for an existing
customer who doesn't want to read through the whole manual again (as if
he'd read it the first time) to find out what has changed.
Has anybody released books with change bars? How did customers react? Is
this, in fact, a requirement for ISO9000? Do you feel that same gut
feeling as I, that this isn't going to be useful in the long run?
I have not used change bars in manuals I have written, but I have used them
in manuals I've received. I used to be the sysop for a computer system whose
manual set made a stack nearly two feet high. We received frequent updates to
the manuals, and it was important for me to keep abreast of the new material.
The change bars made it wonderfully easy to flip through and see what was
new. Not all of it was revelent at the time, of course, but just being aware
of where changes had occured helped me remember to look up the details when
they became relevent. We just had the change bars, but adding the version
numbers next to them sounds like a excellent idea.
I don't know how technically-minded your customers are. If yours is a
consumer product they might not be familiar with change bars, and you should
include a prominent note explaining what they are. Technical users are more
likely to have encountered them. But I think even people new to change bars
will quickly get used to them, and they shouldn't be a problem. A lot of
manuals are being published with icons in the margins that point to warnings
or other notes in the text. A change bar is just another icon.