TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:Re: Editorial Against PDFs From:"Huber, Mike" <mrhuber -at- SOFTWARE -dot- ROCKWELL -dot- COM> Date:Fri, 6 Mar 1998 12:04:21 -0600
My guess is that Dianna, like myself, has attended far too many meetings
where some clueless individual has proposed PDF as an instant answer to
the need for online documentation. Why go to the effort and expense of
producing help files and web sites, when you can dump the manuals into
PDF and use that? I've seen the argument proposed by managers, and I've
seen marketing people actually do it and try to sell the results.
PDF is hated for enabling shovelware. But it's not the tool's fault that
some people abuse it.
For some purposes, you could put together a single-source document that
works in PDF and on paper. But a dump of a manual designed for paper is
likely to be a very bad online document, and that's a common mistake
that some of use are tired of arguing about. The argument is difficult,
because we are arguing against saving time and money.
I think that Dianna is objecting to a home video of a play appearing at
the Bijoux, while Barb is pointing out that a video camera may be of
great value to the cast.
In other words, PDF is good for some things and not for others. And
there are things that PDF can do cheaply with poor results.
>From: Barb Ostapina [SMTP:Barb -dot- Ostapina -at- METROMAIL -dot- COM]
>Sent: Friday, March 06, 1998 9:06 AM
>To: TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU
>Subject: Re: Editorial Against PDFs
>Dianna Massey wrote:
>Argument against using PDF:
>I cringe whenever I hear someone saying PDF should always be used to
>preserve page layout on an intranet or the Internet. To use a common
>metaphor, publishing a document in PDF format on the Internet or an
>intranet is like videotaping a play and calling it a movie.
>Documents that will have long-term value when published electronically
>should be designed (or redesigned) for the medium.
>Dianna is assuming that anyone who videotapes a play is trying to produce a
>quick-and-dirty movie. Maybe that's not true. If I want someone who wasn't
>at the play to see it exactly as it was done, I think videotaping it would
>be a great solution. At my company we are planning to use PDF on an
>intranet for system documentation. I have chosen this route not because I
>want everyone to think I can do quick, interactive online documentation,
>but because I want everyone to be able to see it just the way it was
>designed, with typefaces, fonts, layouts and pagination in tact (in our
>case, this is important)--and to be able to print it that way, too, if they
>so choose, regardless of their hardware/software configurations. I also
>want it to be easier for them to maneuver around within and among
>documents. I don't want a movie, I want a play on videotape.