HTML vs PDF for online manuals

Subject: HTML vs PDF for online manuals
From: Mark Dempsey <mxd2 -at- osi -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L, a list for all technical communication issues" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 10 Sep 1999 08:22:49 -0700

Since we've recently done some research about this very thing, here are
our findings:

1. PDF can be perfectly acceptable online, but has difficulty if docs
are large. Acrobat-in-a-browser (as a plug-in) does not permit links to
work if bandwidth restricts downloads. Using Acrobat as a helper
application for a browser waits until the entire pdf is downloaded
before opening and displaying it. If a remote client has a thin pipe to
the server, this can cause problems. Solution: load the docs when you
load the client application.

2. HTML has less sophisticated formatting than pdf, but can typically
download faster because the files are typically split, and smaller.
Because HTML-based help systems are usually generated as a multiplicity
of files, they can be troublesome to manage, but permit
context-sensitive help systems (IMHO, entirely useless maintenance

3. JavaHelp promises cross-platform help systems that use XML, and
overcome the multi-file management issues. Trouble reports to this list
(a recent JavaHelp conference had difficulty getting the *demos* to run)
have made us reluctant to try these promising systems.


-- mailto:Mark -dot- Dempsey -at- osi -dot- com
-- Mark Dempsey
-- Technical Publications
-- Objective Systems Integrators
-- 110 Woodmere, Folsom, CA 95630
-- 916.353.2400 x 4777

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