RE: install or installation guide?

Subject: RE: install or installation guide?
From: "Brierley, Sean" <Brierley -at- Quodata -dot- Com>
To: "'techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com'" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 10 Sep 1999 12:10:56 -0400


Am suffering serious mail lag, so please forgive if already covered.

PDF is a much more manageable format. The entire book exists as one file. A
700 page book, converted to HTML, might result in 700 html files plus 1,400
graphics files. Manage that!

PDF is a different format from HTML. You can print an entire PDF book to a
printer at once. Like HTML, there may be hypertext for navigation in
cross-references, index, TOC, and, of course bookmarks. PDF displays the
layout and styles of your book faithfully.

HTML is chunked differently. Scrolling through one, long, 700-page HTML file
is not done. Instead, the screen ratio of 4:3 and pixel dimensions and
resolution determine output size. Printing an entire web site (as I'll refer
to the compilation of HTML files that comprise the book) is not practical.
Only printing a current page, or topic is. Similarly, HTML does not support
the layout, design, and formatting of books faithfully, HTML code, including
its JavaScript derivative, is not designed to do that. Thus, whereas in a
book you can refer to something on a preceding or following page, you cannot
easily do this in HTML, where hypertext, not scrolling, joins pages; thus,
the writing needs to change, too. Additionally, page numbers and chapters
make little sense in the electronic domain of the web site, so the structure
of your book needs to change.

Is there a place for HTML. Of course. Is HTML a better format than PDF for
making a printed book on-line. Absolutely not.

What, then, is HTML good for? Online help. Write or single-source a book
with HTML help in mind and you can use the different format and chunking to
your advantage as a different kind of resource for your reader. Creation of
on-line help is best done as a separate project, but the realities of
deadlines, staffing, and $$$ often preclude that. Online help, with its
formatting, printing, and structural limitations and differences, is not a
replacement for an online PDF book, however.

sean -at- quodata -dot- com

-----Original Message-----
From: Sandy Harris [SMTP:sharris -at- dkl -dot- com]
Sent: Friday, September 10, 1999 9:41 AM
Subject: Re: HTML vs PDF for online manuals

Melissa Kucbel-Saumier wrote:
> Hello,
> 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'll way in on the other side. The only reasons I can see to even
consider PDF are if:

either you don't want the docs used online, the only goal
to distribute printable material via the web
or you have everything is some proprietary format that
cannot be converted to HTML

Barring those, the advantages of HTML (linking, readable from any
system, ...) make it obviously the way to go.

On the other hand, I'd aim at the next century and go XML rather
than HTML. See for information.
Send administrative questions to ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com -dot-

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