Re: Ideas for inexpensive manual production?

Subject: Re: Ideas for inexpensive manual production?
From: Cees Hesp <ceeshesp -at- TIP -dot- NL>
Date: Wed, 27 May 1998 23:02:27 +0200

Eric, Jason, Kathryn,

I know the problem all too well. Here's some tricks that I have used over the years:

- Reduce the number of printed manuals
For example by only covering the more stable, "conceptual" stuff in paper manuals,
and all the rest in the form of online documentation (Winhelp, HTML, PDF, whatever).
If you do not have something in print, there is no contractual obligation to provide it either.

- Fix the "organizational" problem (easier said than done, I know)
Insist on specs, code freezes, documentation freezes, beta programs (anything goes).
Most importantly, insist on a "GUI freeze", as in "fix anything you like, but after such and
such date do *not* touch the GUI."

- Make the software developers responsible for some parts of the documentation,
as in saying "you introduce(d) the problem, you fix it" (e.g. the release notes).

- Insist that the software be more user-friendly, more intuitive, less bug-ridden, etc.
This is a long-term goal, but remember that if there weren't so many idiosyncrasies
you would not have to document so much.

- Find a way of producing your documentation that makes dealing with change easier.
For example, single-point-of-definition, reuse, limiting the number of generation/
compilation runs required, componentization, separating the form, content, and structure of
your publications.


PS: An excellent way of doing the latter is to use HTM-S

-----Oorspronkelijk bericht-----
Van: Eric Thomas [SMTP:eathomas -at- DBITS -dot- COM]
Verzonden: Wednesday, May 27, 1998 8:11 PM
Onderwerp: 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were somewhat out of date when we received them.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.

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

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