Re: Ideas for inexpensive manual production?

Subject: Re: Ideas for inexpensive manual production?
From: Jason Huntington <JasonH -at- CAPTURA -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 27 May 1998 12:06:39 -0700

Eric,

I work for a small company too. We are bound by contract to provide
customers (and partners' customers) 5 copies of everything we have in
print every time we release a new program version.

With all the other work to do, I hesitate to enter into a struggle with
the Product Manager to change this arrangement. However, with the
evangelism of another writer, it looks like things will slowly come
around to a new publishing methodology here.

Here are some options you may want to consider:

* You could continue your addenda as errata sheets published
without having to send out new copies of the manuals.
* You could change the contract to let you ship manuals on the
CD-ROM and let customers print copies on demand.
* You could provide the manuals on CD-ROM in an electronic book
format to be read in a viewer such as Envoy or Acrobat.
* You could move from providing printed manuals to providing HTML
on your company's web site.

A larger issue is raised, however, in the following passage:

"But bugs were corrected and little "features" were added in the
meantime."

You can minimize the number of bugs fixed that affect the documentation
(I assume that these have more to do with UI) and little features
creeping in by taking a stronger hand in cementing your development
team's use of Design and Requirements documentation before coding
begins. Design documentation lets your team know what they're doing
before they start, which minimizes late changes that affect procedures
and screen shots in the manual. Requirements documentation lets your
team know when they are done, which minimizes feature-creep.

The problem you've stated is not a small one, I realize. It is problem
that is too common for documentation departments at small and large
companies. I hope my suggestions are to the point you intended and do
not seem blithe or impertinent.

I would like to hear other suggestions you receive in addition to what
you finally decide to do. Because the problem is so common, every
solution is important to hear about.

Respectfully,


Jason Huntington
Senior Technical Writer
Captura Software, Inc.

-----Original Message-----
From: Eric Thomas [SMTP:eathomas -at- DBITS -dot- COM]
Sent: Wednesday, May 27, 1998 11:11 AM
To: TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU
Subject: Ideas for inexpensive manual production?

My company has run into a sizeable problem in the production of
printed
manuals for our software. We're a small company, and doing all
the
development and CD-ROM burning in-house. It seems as though
our manuals
were somewhat out of date when we received them. The time
between when I
handed over the files to be printed and bound until we received
them back
to pack into our boxes was around 3 weeks. But bugs were
corrected and
little "features" were added in the meantime. It seemed like no
big deal
to do an addendum, and we did. But... this is going to happen
every time.
We're developing and correcting constantly, and do not ship out
large
volumes of our software all at once. Therefore, we need to find
an
economical way to make sure that our customers have the most
recent printed
documentation that pertains to the currently shipping version of
the software.
Ideally, we need to do small (5-10) manual runs. We've looked
into taking
our manuals to Kinko's, but it appears that they'll charge
around $5.00 per
manual (we have 3 per copy of our software) for spiral bound,
plus we'll
have to get our ad agency to come up with front and back covers
that look
nice, plus we'll have to do all the printing on our own printer
(printing
front to back) plus have to crop the printouts (they're 7x9")
and, to make
a long story even longer... I don't know what to do.
Has anyone with a small company (or a large company) been in a
similar
situation. As I said, we don't send out tons of copies of a
single
release, so we need to be flexible, yet we also need to be cost
conscious.
Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks.

Eric A. Thomas
eathomas -at- dbits -dot- com


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