[Date Prev][Date Next] [Thread Prev][Thread Next]
[Date Index] [Thread Index] [New search]

Re: on-line help

*** The original message appeared on the FrameUsers mailing list.
*** This reply is copied only to the framers@omsys.com mailing list.

From: <wil.bron@philips.com>
> We have a rather extended user manual containing over 20
> chapters/1200 pages and many imported graphics. A few years
> ago we decided to make html from the FrameMaker source files.
> We use these html as on-line help.
> Do you think html is a good choice for making on-line help?
> I don't particularly like the layout and pdf
> would probably have a much better look.
> But what about memory usage of large pdf files?
> Are there other pro and cons?

I have actually taken a serious look at PDF as online help format,
but found it to be not such a good choice.

The on-screen appearance of text in small point sizes is not as
simple and good as HTML. With text smoothing turned off, text is
more jaggy compared to a web browser, and with text smoothing
turned on, text becomes fuzzy and gray. This is subjective, but
in general body text is rendered better in web browsers.

Things like navigation and links will work equally well, and
may be easier to create from FrameMaker hyperlinks compared to
HTML conversions. Bookmarks in PDF are nice and automatic.

PDF documents have a fixed page size/ratio and layout, which
is normally a good idea, and you know the layout already in FM.
Anything you design in FM will look exactly the same in PDF.
With HTML, final layout may not be what you'd expect, and some
things cannot be converted easily (multiple columns, image maps).

BUT, online help is generally tied to the application, i.e. the
help is context-sensitive and opens up at the correct place in
the help file. This is much more difficult to achieve with PDF,
since the free Acrobat Reader cannot be told to open a PDF file
at a specific location. (The API and license doesn't allow it.)

On the other hand, by using Acrobat Catalogue, you can easily
create a search index which can be used in the Acrobat Reader.
A free text search must be implemented separately for HTML.

Acrobat Reader can be slower than a web browser when it comes
to opening documents, switching between documents, etc.
And, people aren't used to the Acrobat Reader in the same way
as a web browser, especially not for on-screen hypertext and

In short, PDFs *can* be used for on-line help, but HTML is
in many cases a better choice. PDF is intended as a format for
document distribution, not as an interactive hypertext format.
If your FM documents contain longer texts that aren't intended
as short, context-sensitive help for interactive use, but
instead as separate reading that users may want to print out
instead of reading on-screen, then PDF is an alternative.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Thomas Michanek, FrameMaker/UNIX/MIF expert
mailto:Thomas.Michanek@telia.com   (Sweden)
* *  U P D A T E D   O N   N O V .   2  * *
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Join the "Free Framers" mailing list: send the
message "subscribe framers" to majordomo@omsys.com
[I'm no longer part of the FrameUsers mailing list]

** To unsubscribe, send a message to majordomo@omsys.com **
** with "unsubscribe framers" (no quotes) in the body.   **