Re: HTML vs PDF for online manuals

Subject: Re: HTML vs PDF for online manuals
From: Mark Dempsey <mxd2 -at- osi -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 10 Sep 1999 12:39:56 -0700

I disagree with many of Lisa's points:

> I have written up some comparisons on PDF vs. HTML, but HTML's always won
> pretty resoundingly. The benefits of PDF are that it's easy to print and
> requires little, if any, training and rampup time for someone without much
> online experience.
> On the other hand, it's not portable (Acrobat isn't available for every
> platform), it's very tied to monitor size and is often almost unreadable on
> laptops, it often requires the user to download software to view, it's
> linear and thus doesn't take full advantage of the capabilities of hypertext
> and information reuse, and it wheezes compared to many browsers.

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. Acrobat is definitely
*not* tied to monitor size since (unlike HTML) it has a zoom tool. If
pages are sized prudently, most monitors can manage to make readable
text, even laptops. Even HTML requires software downloads to view too...

Finally, Acrobat is as linear, or non-linear as HTML. Trust me, you can
make every link and jump HTML does in Acrobat. One tip: make the Acrobat
link screen appearance blue (like HTML). It prints black and gives an
onscreen cue that users have reached a link.

The biggest problem we've had with Acrobat acceptance is that, while
most people know how to use a browser (and accept its viewing
limitations, when compared to Acrobat), even sophisticated software
users may be new to Acrobat. A small amount of instruction goes a long
way here.

One real difference with HTML is documents that would be a single
Acrobat file are most often several, smaller pdf files. Clients without
the bandwidth to download the file would have difficulties. Solution:
install the file to the client rather than downloading it.

Whether the original post's arguments are fair...I can't say. In my
experience, we're on the wrong planet for "fair" anyway...:-)


-- 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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