Re: Electronic Docs Format...

Subject: Re: Electronic Docs Format...
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Tue, 28 Oct 1997 18:56:35 -0600

At 03:32 PM 10/28/97 -0500, you wrote:
> We are going to distribute a 60 page manual on CD-ROM to Windows, Unix
> and Mac users. The original was created in Frame. I think we have
> three choices:
> 1. Distribute it with appropriate FrameViewers and ask that users
> install the viewers.
> 2. Convert the document to .PDF and supply the appropriate Acrobat
> viewers (which users may already have).
> 3. Or should we go to HTML and let users view the manual with their
> browsers?
> Thanks VERY much for your thoughts!
Dick, there are scads of factors that should be considered. Such as:

Fonts: Can you send them along, or are they proprietary?
Budget: Do you have the budget to buy a Frame viewing app?
Graphics: Are there any, and will the user be able to zoom on them?
Tricks: Will you be using multimedia, scripts, or other enhancements?
Maintenance: How often will this manual have to be updated, and how?
Hypertext: How will links be established, and how many will there be?
Fidelity: Will you have to maintain layout?

And these are just the threshold ones. How good are your PDF and HTML
filters? What machines will your users have? How wide a range of hardware
and systems? Will you be using a search engine?

For a bare-bones, minimally linked manual, probably PDF will go down best.
It's quick to make, will generally read on any suitable version of Reader,
and it keeps layout intact. It can even be put on the Web as-is and read in
most browsers with the Acrobat plug-in. Additionally, users can't mess with
it, as they can with HTML. If you use object-type graphics like EPS, you can
even let users zoom in on graphics without losing clarity. Remember, though,
that PDFs can be slow to use on older machines. And PDF can be cantankerous.
HTML is wonderfully predictable when it's written out in straightforward
coding, but it can be really tricky when you try to add embellishments. And
if you can't guarantee what browser the user has, you'll HAVE to keep it
simple. In sum, there ain't no perfect answer. There's only better or lesser
tradeoffs. Define your number one priority and choose the best match.

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

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