Re: Go Completely "On-line"

Subject: Re: Go Completely "On-line"
From: "Wing, Michael J" <mjwing -at- INGR -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 22 Jul 1998 11:50:09 -0500

Roger Morency wrote:

The most surprising revelation was that they unanimously said they
would prefer to receive documentation on CD ROM or on the Internet.
They
would sacrifice printed material for the ability to do on-line
searches for
topics. They claim they would use this media much more than printed
manuals.
And wouldn't need to call for support as often.

We are now looking at a completely on-line delivery for our
documentation.
Instead of starting in FrameMaker and working our up to web pages,
we think
it may in fact be easier to start by creating web pages first. We
do not
want to use PDF because our clients have complained about this
"extra step".
Ideally, we would create our documentation web and copy these exact
same
files over to CD giving us two delivery mechanisms (Internet and
CD).

Thanks.

Roger Morency

Our writing department has been about 90% online (Getting started guide and
some installation instructions are still printed) since 1994. We deliver a
mixture of WinHelp and HTML. The files are delivered on CD.

I can't speak for the writers who do the user guides (I do programmer's
guides), but I chose HTML over PDF because of the following reasons:

* Web browsers are familiar tools for programmers. Therefore, they
don't need the plugin for Acrobat Reader, need to learn Acrobat Reader, or
to view the whole encilada at once.

* Updates to single units of the documentation are as easy as
replacing individual HTML files (either through e-mail or downloaded across
the net).

* Precision format of my documents is of no interest to the user. In
fact, I go out of my way to make sure that much of the formatting is
controllable from their browser. They are mostly interested in getting to
the subject matter and examples quickly. When they find the applicable
information, they print the section, mark it up, and stick it in a binder.

* The font face, size, and color is settable through their browser.
They can read it online in one font and change the font for print.

* My user's don't want to print out a pretty and pretty bulky manual
all nicely formatted. They don't particularly give a rat's furry rump as to
heading fonts, bullet types, caption locations, leading, and all the minutia
that we writer's go bald trying to control. They just want the information.
They want it quick, accurate, and complete.

* Through JavaScript and VBScript I can make working examples. That
is, the user sees the example code and then presses buttons in the HTML
document that exercise the code on the product.

* I'm experimenting now with active server pages to allow users to
configure and customize their product locally while accessing the online
guide across the net. The guide sereves as information and as a test bed.
They can test example code against their installation and use the code that
they are developing angainst a product at my site through the ASP code in
the document. This is not possible with PDF.

* All documentation can be written in NotePad if need be. No
distiller, no filters, no RoboHelp, no "gimmie all your money" Framemaker or
"you must conform" MSOffice suite software.

* HTML, ASP, and XML is where the internet technology for
documentation lives. IMO, PDF is a fringe to that technology.

Mike




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