Re: what doc formats do READERs want ?

Subject: Re: what doc formats do READERs want ?
From: Chris Despopoulos <despopoulos_chriss -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 14 Dec 2011 06:36:51 -0800 (PST)

Since you're accepting anecdotes, I'll chime in with two of mine...  I think the answer is, "It depends".  The format readers want depends on the type and  purpose of the information.  For API docs that can (should) integrate in an IDE, the answer is definitely HTML.  And actually, I have found that to be true for API docs in all circumstances.  But nobody sits down to read API docs from cover to cover.  At least, I've never seen it (anecdote #1).  I extend that to say, if the information is reference, and benefits from random access, search, and other munging techniques, HTML is the way to go.

For me, if it's to be read cover to cover, I prefer paper.  I spend too much time in front of a machine already.  To be honest, I have a page limit for PDF, and it's even shorter than my limit for HTML.  In fact, the only PDF I actually *choose* to read is sheet music.  Otherwise, I tend to read it only because it's there.  Well, that's also true for sheet music.  The only reason I read PDF is because it's easier to get than paper.  Were it equally accessible in print, I would prefer that (anecdote #2). 

Bottom line, text is a purpose-driven technology.  Typography and legibility are functions of that purpose.  So I think the answer to your question really is, "It depends".  Depending on which sector you investigate, you will get different answers.  Or, depending on which sector ultimately dominates text.

Maybe that's really the question you're asking -- Which sector is dominating text?


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