Re: Reformat PDF for online info./don't replace WinHelp!

Subject: Re: Reformat PDF for online info./don't replace WinHelp!
From: Susana Rosende <SRosende -at- THEFUND -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 29 Jul 1999 17:53:42 -0400

Hello Sean: Did I mention that my company did not justify the cost of
writing a manual in the first place? There is no manual for the application,
despite the clients' requests. (What do *they* know anyway? They're only
USERS, right?) There is only the training guide that accompanies the 2-day
training class, customer support, and the online help.

So far, nobody looks at the online help, the help desk is overworked, and
the users have asked for a book that my company does not find
cost-justifiable. Hmmmmmmmmmm.

My suggestion is to write the darn book, put it online to cut costs, and
make it thorough enough, with a step-by-step procedures section, so that we
don't need an online help at all, except for maybe a user-friendly
Frequently Asked Questions/Troubleshooting type of help.

However, I'm open to suggestions! As for your Utopia of Technical Writing
dream, we all must do something to get us through this often undervalued
career. Keep dreaming and hoping that tech writers are some day as valued as
the gods of the business world -- the developers/computer

-Susana Rosende

-----Original Message-----
From: Brierley, Sean [mailto:Brierley -at- QUODATA -dot- COM]
Sent: Thursday, July 29, 1999 1:47 PM
Subject: Re: Reformat PDF for online info./don't replace WinHelp!


Susana Rosende is <<...opting to make our pdf files available
from our FTP site, and considering dropping HAT-created
online help for an online manual>>

I see PDF as an online book: an electronic duplication of the printed manual
(+hypertext). As such, the online book can be used to update customer
manuals more quickly, easily, and inexpensively than the printed thing.
Indeed, software companies who have a small niche can, if they choose, only
distribute as PDF and pass of the printing chore to the customer. This all
begs the question, does the customer read PDFs, print PDFs, or even read a
printed version of the manual that you supply?

Online help, in my humble yet strong opinion, is a different animal than the
online book. Whereas, online books and printed books seem suited to giving
general overviews, letting you pre-plan your use of the software, and, yes,
even answering specific, need-to-know-now kinds of things, online help seems
only suited to the latter.

In my Utopia, where technical writers are atop the highest rung of society's
ladder, sharing the most wealth, power, status, and toys . . . yes, lots of
toys (I digress?), the online help project is separate from the online
book/in-print effort. Here, the cost savings of single-sourcing is not
needed. Ha! If there's no book and no online help, then the product won't
ship, by golly. In this Utopia, the online help answers in 30 seconds every
I-need-to-know-now question the user has. The online help is not about
pre-planning nor general overview, but is more specifically targeted to
specific, tactical operations.

So, I would better understand replacing the printed book with a PDF, but
suggest that the PDF is not a suitable replacement for the online help . .

All the best, now back to reality. Another day another nickle ;?(.

sean -at- quodata -dot- com

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