Re: PDF or HTML?

Subject: Re: PDF or HTML?
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Tue, 4 Mar 1997 09:19:51 -0600

At 12:12 AM 3/4/97 -0500, you wrote:
>My doc group is now in the process of researching publishing our
>documentation manuals electronically. We're currently in the process of
>deciding whether we should move with Acrobat's .pdf files, or stick to a
>straight conversion to HTML when (1) offering those documents on an office
>Intranet Web-site, and (2) offering those documents on CD-ROM or diskette.
>We need to do both... Is there anyone out there who produces hard copy
>documentation and publishes electronically for both things listed above?
>There are pros and cons to each method, but what are folks out there doing?
>We're probably moving to FrameMaker, so I'm definitely interested in hearing
>about how Frame users convert to HTML, but I'm *mainly* interested in what
>tools you've chosen to accomplish the electronic publication. If you have
>Frame, what do you use? If you have Word/Interleaf/Ventura/etc., what tools
>do you use?
>Thanks folks.

We don't make such decisions for ourselves, but we advise clients about them.

In general, documents that 1)need to retain layout and specific attributes,
like legal documents, policies, procedures, ISO 9000 documents, and so
forth, and 2)don't need extensive links, we suggest rendering as PDF. It's
fast and it's almost impossible for users to screw around with them. Yes,
you can install hyperlinks, but it's not time-effective to do so in most cases.

On the other hand, documents that are often updated, like company
announcements and beta software information, or that require extensive
hyperlinking, and aren't particularly sensitive, we suggest go to HTML.
Hyperlinks out of Frame are automatic in most conversion packages. HTML
works well natively on intranets, as opposed to PDF, which requires a
plug-in reader or ActiveX control. HTML is particularly essential when
documents are both frequently updated and database-centered. Updating dozens
or hundreds of PDF files isn't practical, not when you can generate HTML on
the fly.

Too, we heavily suggest HTML when a database can be developed for both
publishing hard copy and publishing electronically. Setting up and running
such a database can save a company thousands of dollars annually, but it's
much easier to render the output as HTML than as PDF.

Frame works beautifully with either WebWorks Publisher or WebMaker, although
Publisher is way more powerful, albeit expensive. You should set up
FrameMaker templates, though, that have predictable styles. Any conversion
package will need that information ahead of time to render the best HTML.
Make and enforce template use. Don't let contractors or employees wander
into creative chaos if you're publishing to two media.

Frame goes best to PDF via a PostScript printer file. Just save the Frame
doc as a PS printer file, import the file into Acrobat, then post the
results. It's actually faster than HTML conversion if you don't have any
hyperlinks to install. But add hyperlinks and the labor goes up fast.

Database publishing is another ballgame entirely. There you'd maintain the
database, not the document. Then when you publish, you pull the database and
put it into a prepared Frame template. The database is also available for
real-time HTML polling, so HTML is actually more timely than hard copy.

Tim Altom
Vice President, Simply Written, Inc.
317.899.5882 (voice) 317.899.5987 (fax)
FrameMaker support ForeHelp support
FrameMaker-to-HTML Conversions
HTML Help Consulting and Production

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