Re: USA Today article demands printed documentation

Subject: Re: USA Today article demands printed documentation
From: "Eric L. Dunn" <edunn -at- TRANSPORT -dot- BOMBARDIER -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 16 Feb 1999 16:05:40 -0500

When referring to hardware I think the article is dead-on. Installation and
troubleshooting information as a minimum must be supplied in hard copy. For
software we walk once more into that murky realm.
However, IMO, all software should come with a minimum of hardcopy manuals.
Installation, troubleshooting, and introduction. IMO on-line help is good
for the "I'm stuck and can't figure it out" or similar contextual "How to
do this" type material. But for a user to be aware of all the functionality
of a robust software package there needs to be some form of introductory
hardcopy. Otherwise how is the user supposed to know that the software is
even supposed to tackle a given task? Or consider how on earth you are
supposed to figure out how to install or troubleshoot software when the
on-line help can only be accessed with the system running correctly and
through the application?
Any kind of programmers reference needs a hardcopy. Code references are
best in on-line form where they are browsed quickly and accurately. But it
is impossible (or at least very painful IMO) to attempt to read sequential
reference material on-line. While on-line may offer quick lookup and
browsing if the topic would fill more than half an 8.5 by 11 page, I'll
argue that printed is much easier to deal with.
Much of the on-line/hardcopy debate depends on the user (audience) and the
design of documentation. Either hardcopy or on-line can be worse than
useless if poorly designed or executed.

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