Online vs Paper-based Presentation

Subject: Online vs Paper-based Presentation
From: David Koop <dkoop -at- NORTEL -dot- CA>
Date: Thu, 7 May 1998 15:54:00 EDT

The following is being posted to both the Frame Users news group
(Framers -at- FrameUsers -dot- com) and the Society for Technical Communications
news group (techwr-l -at- listserv -dot- okstate -dot- edu).
Our documentation group is planning how to present our user guides in
Acrobat format. We produce our documents using FrameMaker 5.1 (Unix).
Our issues have more to do with presentation than mechanics. (In other words,
we have already experimented enough with Frame and Acrobat to know what
we can get out of both programs.)

Currently, we produce hardcopy manuals in 7.5" by 9" format. Our body text is
Times Roman 11 point, on a line length of 4.5" with a left margin of about
1.5". Captions, figure callouts and tables are in 9 point Helvetica. Our
headings are in Helvetica Bold and span the full column width of 6".

In our trials, we have used a different template, with slightly different page
dimensions, a single-page (rather than facing page) design, and Helvetica as
the body text. As a result, we have a production issue to deal with, because:
1) We have to convert manuals from one template to another.
2) Each template is different enough that pagination changes, and all figures
and tables have to be resized, and pagination changes.
The conversion is complex enough to involve substantial time, and a proofing/
correction step.

We would like to know what other companies are doing when they put user guides
into Acrobat format.

Our questions to you are:
1) What is the major purpose:
a) Distributing user guides online or with software
If so, how do you expect them to be used?
- to be printed and read off-line
- to be read on-screen
b) Reducing costs
2) Do you use a different template for your Acrobat files? For example, do
you use different fonts, or alter the page dimensions? Is it worth the
effort to redesign a publication designed for presentation as a book
in order to present it on the screen?
3) If your Acrobat files are the same as your paper books, do you optimize
your design for one format over another? For example, do you use a
two-page spread to support double-sided printing and two-page layouts,
or do you use a one-page spread sized to fit the screen?
4) What hypertext navigation aids do you utilize in your Acrobat files? For
example, do you set up hypertext links in your Frame files and export them
to Acrobat?
5) If your documents support a software product, do you make the Acrobat files
accessible on-line, for example, as a menu choice from the application.

Send responses directly to me at:
dkoop -at- nortel -dot- ca

I will post a summary of responses.

David Koop

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