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by Malcolm Graham

We live in a world where the pace of change has accelerated to the point where as soon as a document is published it is out of date before the intended reader ever sees it. In addition, many people seem to be addicted to the printed word.

In order to function efficiently and effectively in today's world, people need current and accurate information as quickly as possible. While we will continue to rely heavily upon printed media for some time to come, there is a better way to give people up-to-date information. That way is to provide it online.

I've been publishing documents online for over 15 years. On one project, before publishing documents online, we delivered one major and one minor printed documentation release each year; after going online, we published changed documents every month while reducing our production and development costs by 17% and increasing productivity by 21%.

Today, large amounts of information are being published using CD-ROM technology. Publishing using CD-ROM media has some advantages over print media; however, it also suffers from one of its main weaknesses; information is out of date before it is even published. An interesting combination of the CD-ROM and Web technologies, utilizing the strengths of both, involves publishing a large initial information base once a year on CD-ROM and automatically merging it with incremental information updates downloaded from the Web. An excellent example of this was the discontinued Microsoft Cinemania product.

Currently, the best solution to publishing information online is the combined use of the World Wide Web and portable document technologies. My recommended tools for producing online documents are FrameMaker for creating the information source document; HTML to create document navigation pages; and Acrobat for creating Portable Document Format (PDF) documents that can be viewed on different computing platforms. For an example of how I used these tools on a recent project, see Webbed Documents (this is a PDF document and you will need Acrobat Reader to view it).

Currently, WriteDoc is experimenting with publishing self-help books online using Acrobat; see the WriteDoc Bookstore.

If you have a need to publish, new or existing, documents on the Web, contact WriteDoc.