Re: PDF v paper

Subject: Re: PDF v paper
From: "Roil, Nicola" <nroil -at- MSI -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Thu, 17 Dec 1998 19:56:13 +1100

I'm afraid I have to agree with David Castro. Producing a PDF does not
necessarily save trees.
I was recently involved in usability testing some online documentation.
We found that users were actually printing out sections that were of use
to them and creating their own personal paper manuals. The organization
which had implemented the documentation has a considerable number of
employees. No longer was there a single printed document for each office
but multiple documents. It is my belief that far more trees were
sacrificed to this organization after they went online.

Last month's edition of the Australian magazine "Desktop" (sorry can't
remember the issue number but I can get it) also indicates this trend
occurs on a wider scale.

Another difference with printing your own copy is you may print the same
page multiple times. Laser printed pages are easier to lose and more
likely to be thrown out because they are available to be printed again.

On a different note, I am concerned about the number of comments
indicating online documentation is better because it is online. Online
documentation is only good if it meets the needs of the user.

Nicola Roil
Technical Writer
MasterSoft International
PO Box 773, Chatswood NSW 2067, Australia
nroil -at- msi -dot- com -dot- au

David Castro wrote:

>This is one of those times that I *really* wish I could quote my
>but I read that for every document you send out electronically, it is
>printed 3 times over during its lifetime.

I wish you could quote your source too . . .

>Users tend to print the same
>pages over and over, but nonetheless, they do print them.

So they print a few pages here and there. At least they aren't printing
entire manuals. At first many of our customers were resistent to the
but in the end they saw the benefits. For one thing, we update our
documentation frequently and the best way for them to get the latest and
most up-to-date documenation is to pop in to our web page and download
latest stuff. This was what won them over in the end.

>There goes your
>saving trees.

Naah. If even one tree can be saved because an ENTIRE manual wasn't
that's good enough for me. I think online docs are helping this cause.

>Besides, look at the amount of paper used in the
>documentation that is sent out versus the amount of paper that is used
>internally in the process of creating the software.

I'm not sure what you are referring to exactly, but at our office,
printing of specs, etc., is NOT encouraged. We keep all of our
documenation in one place and use Acrobat Catalog to index everything so
programmers can do full text searches on the PDF's. We also encourage
programmers to use tools in Microsoft Word for document
etc. We also use our software version control system to manage
for the programmers.

Going to a "paperless" situation can be done. It just takes time,
and people who will stand up for the cause. So a few people get
alienated --
that's always a byproduct of a revolution, eh?

What cracks me up is this fetish with the "aesthetic" of the "printed
Remember, it's not how you present the words (stone tablets, wood,
bathroom walls) that's important, it's the content of what gets
that counts. Online documentation is just another medium for presenting
information. The next medium might be through holographic-subliminal
processing. Who knows? And when that happens, people will freak out and
object to that too!

Peter Lucas
Decade Software Company
Fresno, CA

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