Re: Should we skip HTML?

Subject: Re: Should we skip HTML?
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Tue, 10 Mar 1998 11:46:49 -0500

Oh no, not this argument again!
>
>Nearly everybody has a web browser on their computer. That is a fact.

It isn't a fact. And worse, there's no way to definitely anticipate WHICH
browser they've got.

>Few people have Acrobat readers or the browser plug-ins. The market
>penetration for Acrobat readers is quite small. Most users do not take the
>time and frustration to load their Acrobat reader drivers. This is a fact.
>
The market penetration for HTML is much broader because of the Web, not
because people want to use it for their own help files. And what is an
"Acrobat reader driver?" Acrobat Reader is a viewer, but it's not a driver.

>That is why HTML help is better. Not to mention the fact that PDF files are
>enormous when they contain a lot of graphics, while HTML files can be much
>smaller and more modular. This is an opinion.

Er, no. HTML files can't contain graphics while PDFs can. Further, HTML
isn't compressed (unless you count HTML Help from Microsoft) while PDF is.
We routinely reduce twenty megs or more of FrameMaker to less than a meg of
PDF. Further, modularity isn't an issue because a PDF file can access other
PDFs or, if need be, a website.
>
>Acrobat technology has been perpetuated by Adobe-lovers for years. It is a
>pretty neat technology, but the fact is that most people do not have the
>Acrobat readers (or have the wrong versions). In the days before HTML and
>web sites were popular, Acrobat was a good idea. Unfortunately, HTML is
>winning the share of eyeballs.

Again, that's not the killer argument it seems to be. And in point of fact,
there are more WINHELP viewers than browsers, because every copy of Windows
since the 80s ships with the viewer. If the "eyeballs count" is the biggest
factor, then we should all return at once to winhelp.exe.
>
>Therefore, if you do PDF format only -- be prepared to loose eyeballs to
>people who do not care to deal with the Acrobat reader stuff. When I
>consult with clients I advise them to let go of the PDF dependence and go to
>HTML on-line documentation. With the new HTML tools like FrontPage,
>developing on-line HTML documentation is very easy.

Ease of development is only one factor in the decision. Ease of updating,
the integrity of the files, the security of the files, the need for
scripting, DLLs or other embellishments, the ability to foresee the
browser/viewer brand and version, and many other factors should be
considered. I can appreciate your eagerness to embrace the newest and
sexiest of the display technologies, and I have to confess that I'm looking
forward to my first paid-for HTML help project, but I'm going to continue
probing deeply into our clients' needs before I recommend a course to them.


Tim Altom
Vice President, Simply Written, Inc.
317.899.5882 (voice) 317.899.5987 (fax)
www.simplywritten.com
Creators of the Clustar Method (TM)
An out-of-the-box methodology for fast task-based documentation
that's easy to port to paper, WinHelp, Acrobat, SGML, and other media.




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