Advice needed: Creating on-line docs

Subject: Advice needed: Creating on-line docs
From: Matthew Stern <MAStern -at- PLATSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 5 Aug 1997 08:48:13 -0700

In response to some of Colleen Adams' ??s:

>1) Is FrameMaker the way to go if converting some manuals to on-line?

Not necessarily, although I prefer FrameMaker over Word for manual
writing in general. FrameMaker makes it easier to produce Adobe Acrobat
files because it can convert cross-references to hypertext links and
headings to bookmarks. The new version that was just announced, version
5.5, can even save FrameMaker files directly in Acrobat PDF format. See
the following page at the Adobe web site for details:

>2) Is Word compatible with FrameMaker? Is there a lot of work involved
>in converting?

You can import Word files directly into FrameMaker. (I haven't tried
exporting from FrameMaker to Word.)

>4) Is it best to code your own links or use an authoring tool?

I recommend choosing an authoring tool that makes it easy to make links.
This is an advantage of FrameMaker: As you create cross-references,
FrameMaker automatically converts them into hypertext links when you
produce an Acrobat file.

>5) Should you just say "screw it" and hire a consultant? (consultants,
>don't answer this one)

Not until you've done some homework on your own. Decide what you want to
do with online docs and how your users will benefit from the conversion.
Look into costs and conversion time. Then, if you decide you still need
a consultant, you'll have enough knowledge to make an educated choice.
(I also recommend staying always from consultants who type everything in
lowercase, but that's a different thread. :) )

>8) Do you need to treat on-line manuals on CD differently from on-line
>manuals sent via telecommunications?

If you're planning to send online documentation through communication
lines (especially if you have users that have 28.8 modems), you'll want
to make your online manuals as small as possible. Try experimenting with
the graphic compression options in Acrobat Distiller. You might consider
reducing the number of high-resolution graphics in your files to get the
files to a management size for distribution.

If you distributing the online manuals on CD, a network, or high-speed
data communication lines, you don't need to worry about file size as
much. You might want to look at limiting file sizes anyway to free disk
space for other purposes.

Hope this helps.

Matthew Stern
Sr. Technical Writer
Platinum Software Corporation

E-mail mailto:mastern -at- platsoft -dot- com

"The number of practices, disgusting or exciting,
usual or unusual, in which you wish to engage in
private is of no concern to society."
-- Judith Martin (Miss Manners)

The opinions here are solely my own.

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