TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:Re: On-line v. paper From:Linda Sherman <linsherm -at- GTE -dot- NET> Date:Sat, 19 Dec 1998 22:24:29 -0500
Judyth Mermelstein wrote:
> By the way, I AM a staunch advocate of saving trees when at all possible.
> That doesn't happen when users end up printing 100 pages of 8-1/2 x 11 to get
> a hard copy.
Or when they run down to Barnes & Noble and buy a book as big or bigger
than the one the software publisher didn't print or, as is increasingly
the case, write. I have about six shelf feet of third-party books about
Borland products because Inprise can't be bothered to document their
development systems properly, online or otherwise.
I want to bring up another point about PDF that I didn't see mentioned
(although I confess to not having read every last paragraph of every
last posting to this subject). It's not that I dislike PDF per se. My
beef is that 99 times out of 100, the "PDF" file is just an image of
what was or is meant to be a hardcopy manual. So it's in a completely
stupid, unusable, migraine-inducing format for viewing online--for
example, the pages are sized to fit an 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper rather
than a typical 600x800 computer screen. Unfortunately, there seems to be
a growing number of companies who think that the only requirement for
calling something "online documentation" is that it can be
/*displayed*/--the requirement that it be /*viewable*/ doesn't seem to
enter into the management decision. If these companies who have stopped
shipping hardcopy would reformat their "online" documentation to make it
somewhat more usable, I wouldn't be so miffed. But they're trying to
have their cake and eat it to: i.e., not providing hardcopy docs, and
not providing something suitable for online viewing either.
Anothing thing. If they're just dumping page images into a PDF file
/*meant for printing*/, I'd much really rather have them in Word format,
thank you very much. I don't mind printing the occasional big
job--that's why I invested in a fairly quick laser printer. The problem
is, when it comes to printing, PDF stands for "You Could Have Bought An
Inkjet For $2,000 Less And Never Noticed." Last week I had to print out
a 600p manual on my 8ppm HP4M and it took nearly five hours, effectively
reducing my laser printer to about the rate of my old Apple Imagewriter
II (actually, the I-II might have been faster). Maybe if I had a 400Mhz
PII instead of this little old P166 I could have speeded that up to all
of 4ppm. A properly formatted Word file, on the other hand, would have
printed out in the expected 1 hr. and 15 minutes (not counting
paper-reloading/jam-clearing time) or not much more than that.
So when it comes to shipping "online versions of hardcopy docs", I don't
see it as being "online v. paper", but as PDF versus some printable
format, like Word, that doesn't consume so much in the way of system
resources. It /*used*/ to be that companies would put docs in Word
format, then suddenly everybody jumped on the PDF bandwagon, for no
reason I can think of other than Acrobat is "free" and everybody hates
Bill Gates. I really wish they'd jump back off.
Linda K. Sherman <linsherm -at- gte -dot- net>
Computer programming, technical writing, web development
phone: 1-727-842-6756 fax: 1-727-842-6853