Re: HTML vs PDF for online manuals

Subject: Re: HTML vs PDF for online manuals
From: "Elna Tymes" <etymes -at- lts -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 09 Sep 1999 20:23:05 -0700

Melissa Kucbel-Saumier wrote:

> Our technical writing department was asked by the higher powers
> of the company :) to change our online manuals from PDF to HTML.
> As we do not agree with this change, we are trying to gather
> information on user preferences and usability of PDF vs HTML. Does
> anyone know any studies or articles on this subject that could
> help us justify our disapproval?

I would counter that it makes much more sense to offer BOTH kinds of output:
PDF for those who like to use Acrobat to read things and print them as
necessary, and HTML for those who prefer the way HTML can code things and make
it easier to jump from topic to topid without using a TOC. More and more
companies are offering those alternatives plus PS format, for those who just
want to print.

The mechanics of going from Word or Frame to PDF or PS are so trivial as to be
a freebie. It's about as easy as saving a backup version of a file in a
different directory or on a floppy. The mechanics of going from Word or Frame
to HTML, however, are a little more intricate, and this may be where you intend
to mount your resistance. While Word does a moderately decent job of
translating text to HTML (if the template tags are set up right), Frame does a
frustratingly poor job without the aid of expensive (on a per/desktop basis)
tools like Quadralay's WPublish. I will never, ever again attempt to take a
file directly from Frame into HTML, despite the fact that Adobe says you can.
However, having experienced the satisfaction of doing the conversion via
WPublish again recently, I can vouch for the fact that it works.

Elna Tymes
Los Trancos Systems

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