Ideas for inexpensive manual production?

Subject: Ideas for inexpensive manual production?
From: Sheila Marshall <sheila -at- STK -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 28 May 1998 11:33:56 -0500


Been there. Still doing it. Release Notes or Addendums are the best bet for
keeping current, unless development will actually stop bug fixing and
including more features just for documentation. I've worked on projects
where whole new panels were being introduced a day before the CD were going
out for replication.

Because CDs here are replicated, books close the day the CD is being
burned, then we have approx 2 weeks to get the books back. During this
time, the CDs are being replicated so we come up even in time. However,
books need to be closed and on-line help and PDF files are put on the
manual at the same time. So everything closes at once. Sometimes the books
document features that haven't even been built yet because I'll find out
it's coming but just can't afford to wait around for it. So I fudge screen
shots sometimes and make sure the developer knows what I'm documenting
before he/she builds it.

I've found that Kinkos is waaaaaay expensive when it comes to doing print
jobs. Sometimes it's best to find a local company who has the capability to
spiral bind and everything else, then negotiate prices based on future
workload and increased business. We can get about 4 cents a page less than
what Kinkos charges (which was about 8 cents a page last time I checked) at
the local copier. And when we do large quantity jobs that are farmed out to
a middle man, I can quote the local company's prices to bring the cost
down. Everyone wins.

As far as cover art goes, you really should consider investing in a good
generic design and have a large quantity printed up beforehand, not cut to
size. Then you can send the covers (uncut) with the job and include a job
specific title that can be printed in black (or copied). Then have the
printer/copier cut the pages for you. This is what we do for short runs and
it works well. Turn around time is only a few days. For easy shipping &
handling, you can shrink wrap a number of docs together so the shipping
person doesn't have to remember which docs go with what package. Also looks
nice. Only a few cents more per wrap.

Good luck!


Date: Wed, 27 May 1998 13:10:53 -0500
From: Eric Thomas <eathomas -at- DBITS -dot- COM>
Subject: Ideas for inexpensive manual production?
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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.

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