RE: HTML vs PDF for online manuals

Subject: RE: HTML vs PDF for online manuals
From: "Higgins, Lisa" <LHiggins -at- carrieraccess -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 10 Sep 1999 14:19:36 -0600

> Acrobat is available for UNIX (several flavors), Mac and Windows.
> Acrobat for BeOS, for example, may be a problem, but if it's not your
> problem, then cross-platform issues are moot.

And this probably isn't much of a problem in the software industry. If
you're creating software for X, Y, and Z platforms, you can distribute
whatever you like on those platforms. If, however, you're distributing
online hardware documentation, you can't assume that your users *aren't*
using BeOS, OS2, or one of the many, many UNsupported Unix versions.

> Acrobat is definitely
> *not* tied to monitor size since (unlike HTML) it has a zoom tool.

PDFs have fixed line lengths. HTML allows user preferences for colors,
fonts, etc., and the 'tools' available with HTML are browser-specific. Sure,
you can use the zoom tool in Acrobat to make the font large enough to be
readable, but this often results in horizontal scrolling when the lines roll
off the side of the page. And horizontal scrolling again to get to the
beginning of the next line. Etc.

This is not conjecture. I've been there.

> If pages are sized prudently, most monitors can manage to make readable
> text, even laptops. Even HTML requires software downloads to view too...

For the most part, I've found that those users who go to a company website
looking for documentation already have web browsers. Even when the
documentation is delivered some other way, more people have web browsers
than have Acrobat.

> Finally, Acrobat is as linear, or non-linear as HTML. Trust
> me, you can make every link and jump HTML does in Acrobat.

Err, no.

You can make some types of links. There are many others that you cannot
make. You cannot link to a stylesheet, to dynamic content, or to outside
information in any meaningful way.

And Acrobat is rarely used for native online documents. It's a printcentric
medium created for secondary online distribution.

It has its strong points. Hypertext is not one of them.


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