The size of a programming manual

Subject: The size of a programming manual
From: Pete Kloppenburg <pkloppen -at- CERTICOM -dot- CA>
Date: Mon, 7 Apr 1997 11:53:03 -0400

Hi all, I need some help here.

I've just been handed responsibility for the documentation for our
flagship product. This product happens to be a collection of C
libraries implementing some proprietary algorithms - there's no
interface to document. It's just straight up tech-talk for developers.

Marketing had responsibility for this documentation to begin with, and they've
made a meal of it. Nobody was really happy with the results, which is why
Development has taken it over. I was asked to review the existing
documentation and come up with some initial recommendations. The first
thing I thought looking at the manual was "Man, why in hell did they put
this in oversized three ring binders?"

Yes, they've designed all the documentation on 81/2x11" paper and
stuck it in a big bulky, totally unusable binder. Now, I want to go
back to the industry standard for these sorts of manuals: 7x9".
I would also rather we spiral bind the results, so that the manual can
be flipped back over on itself to occupy the minimum deskspace.

So here are the problems (this is where you good people come in):
1) I notice that almost all manuals for development tools are 7x9"
perfect bound. This looks sharp, but you can't lie it flat without
breaking the spine, and you can't flip it over. Can you tell me
why most companies ship perfect bound manuals instead of
2) This is going to spark a turf war if Development pushes it very
hard. Apparently Marketing is very attached to their design (tho
I can't believe they gave any thought at all to the user when they
dreamed this up). Any advice from turf-war veterans on how to
say "this sucks" very sweetly and with the minimum offense?
3) The timeline for this project is 6 weeks. I've been told to allow
for 2 weeks for printing, narrowing down the horizon to 4 weeks.
Am I dreaming to think little old me can reorganize, redesign,
and copy edit 170 pages (in the 81/2x11 format) in 4 weeks? I
can't find any benchmarks for this kind of activity.

Thanks very much for any help you can offer.

Pete Kloppenburg - pkloppen -at- certicom -dot- com
Technical Writer
Mississauga, Ontario

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