Re: PDF v paper

Subject: Re: PDF v paper
From: Robert Plamondon <robert -at- PLAMONDON -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 17 Dec 1998 06:45:15 -0800

Darren Barefoot wrote:

>On-line documentation is a far superior format. No one can argue that
>full-colour graphics, audible instructions and animated screen-shots aren't
>superior to a black and white text. Additionally, on-line help can be
>content and context-sensitive. A book always opens in the same place.
>On-line help can provide faster, cheaper, more thorough assistance to the
>average user.

On-line documentation uses a very weak medium: the computer monitor.
Detailed drawings cannot be displayed properly, and the text is blurry and
difficult to read compared to printed manuals. Many, probably most
computers are set up in an ergonomic mode known technically as "implements
of torture," making prolonged reading literally painful. To my knowledge,
no one gets repetitive strain injuries from reading books, but if you keep
one hand on the keyboard and the other on the mouse as you read on-line
manuals, you are at risk.

On-line help is almost always worse than a good index, and often worse than
a bad index. Indexing is a specialty that seems to have been forgotten in
the rush to fragment and scatter information across on-line help files. I
have yet to see on-line help that is as good as a book with three levels of
indexing, with the exception of simple conversions of books with three-level
indexes to on-line formats.

-- Robert

Robert Plamondon * High-Tech Technical Writing
36475 Norton Creek Road * Blodgett OR 97326
541-453-5841 * Fax: 541-453-4139
mailto:robert -at- plamondon -dot- com * http://www.pioneer.net/~robertp

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