Re: Online Documentation

Subject: Re: Online Documentation
From: Bill Burns <BillDB -at- ILE -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 28 Oct 1997 12:18:10 -0700

Barb writes:

> My primary
> concerns are ease of maintenance, multiple output options (online with
> hypertext links, possible future WWW or CD-ROM distribution for user
> docs,
> print -- and online help may be a factor as well down the road), and
> preservation of typeface and layout (especially pagination).
That's a big row to hoe, if you're considering a single-source option
(without using SGML--which is another ball 'o' wax entirely). If you
develop a simple template, use conditional text to separate content for
different media and output requirements, you could probably use
FrameMaker. This would allow you to create hardcopy, printable softcopy
in PDF, an optimized (using the term loosely) version of the manual in
PDF for online use, online help, and HTML. In any case, it will take
planning and design to accomplish the "ease of maintenance" criterion.

> We have an intranet here (though not used, I think because no one
> knows
> what to do with it). We also have Lotus Notes. And, of course, a bunch
> of
> Microsoft stuff. I've identified Adobe (FrameMaker/Acrobat/PDF) as one
> solution and am exploring that. Do you know of others? Does Lotus
> offer
> something? Microsoft? If you've made this leap yourself, how did you
> decide
> which route to take? What roadblocks, potholes, etc. did you hit?
I presented my experience at Micron with this issue at ACM SIGDOC last
week. The paper appears in the proceedings, if you can get a copy. (If
not, I can email a copy to you.) You can use your intranet to deliver
the information, but you'll have to educate your users and design the
access points (your documentation web pages) so they're easy to use.
Otherwise, you'll have an uphill battle getting people to use this
distribution method. Lotus Notes offers some pretty good features, but I
understand that it also limits what tools you can use to develop your

Bill Burns
Senior Technical Writer
ILE Communications Group
billdb -at- ile -dot- com

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