PDF: adjusting size on the screen?

Subject: PDF: adjusting size on the screen?
From: Geoff Hart <Geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Thu, 29 Jul 1999 14:46:25 -0400

Mark Dempsey continued the dialog:

<<About whether context-sensitive help is worth a hill of
beans...well, let's just say I disagree. I've never found a
context-sensitive help that was helpful. I'd even bet I'm not
alone in wishing to terminate a certain dancing paperclip...>>

I guess it depends on how intelligently designed the help was.
If the help button on a dialog box takes you directly to the
part of the help file that describes all parts of that dialog box,
the online help is halfway to being useful (that's the "context-
sensitive" part); to make the remaining half of the journey, the
information actually has to be helpful (that's the "help" part).
Most help files I've used miss one or both parts.

<<Yes PDF is identical to print, but in my Acrobat reader, I
can change the screen resolution so text is as big or little as
I want to read.>>

I wasn't clear. Yes, you can do this, but there's a tradeoff:
either the full page fits on the screen, but is illegible, or only
part of the page fits and you constantly have to page down to
get to the bottom of each page. A proper design would fit all
the page onscreen at once, where this is necessary (e.g., when
you need to see the screenshot and the text that explains it
simultaneously); something designed to print on a typical
manual won't fit on a typical monitor this way. Anecdotal
data: I personally find text smaller than 12 point too small for
easy online reading, yet text in manuals is usually only this
size for large pages that won't fit on the typical screen.

<<We've never had a complaint about poor readability...but
then most of our users have big monitors too...>>

Devil's advocate time: Have you actually asked your users, or
had some neutral third party ask them? Lack of evidence does
not constitute proof! In any event, your second point is more
important: if you've got a large monitor (17 inch or bigger),
you can definitely display a full page at a time with legible
type for typical manuals. If not...

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

"Excess on occasion is exhilarating. It prevents moderation from
acquiring the deadening effect of a habit." -William Somerset Maugham

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