Re: The Benefits of Printing In-House

Subject: Re: The Benefits of Printing In-House
From: "Carnall, Jane" <Jane -dot- Carnall -at- compaq -dot- com>
To: "'\"John David Hickey\" <dave -at- toonboom -dot- com>'" <dave -at- toonboom -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 2 Oct 1999 09:28:27 +0100

Hi Dave,

| Greetings!
| My employer is considering printing our manuals in house rather than
| the job to a Printing company. The entire software package is made up of 8
| individual modules, each module getting its own manual (150 pages each on
| average).

Are there are many changes being made to the software and the documentation,
so that very short print-runs and frequent re-issues are the rule rather
than the exception?

If so, it may actually be worth doing, temporarily at least, since you will
be supplying your users with accurate documentation, not way-out-of-date
stuff. This may work for users who are beta-testing or doing a trial
implementation run of your software. They'll want to see the bugfixes they
requested reflected in the documentation.


Do you have a robust, high-quality printer that can be exclusively devoted
to the task of printing? Because it will be.

Can your printer handle being sent 1050 pages to be printed all in one run
(overnight, for example). You really don't want to do it if it's going to
involve more paper than the printer can handle comfortably at one go.

Do you have a robust, high-quality administrator who can be exclusively
devoted to the task of printing? Running off manuals should not be the kind
of thing you *assume* a technical writer can do "in their spare time".
Shortly you have no time to do anything else. It should be some one
person's job. (Or some two people, or more, depending on the amount of
printing you plan to do.)

And finally, if and ONLY if the quality of the printing isn't required to be
of a professional standard. If you only have to print it out and put it in a
three-ring binder or a cold-binder, fine. If it entails cutting it down to
book size, producing glossy colour illos, designing an attractive cover, you
don't want to get involved.

And if you do go the DIY route, for G*d's sake make it formal that it is a
*temporary* measure that will STOP when it starts eating up too much time
and resources. Technical writers need to know about publishing: but if the
doc team's turned into a mini-publishing house, something's gone wrong. At
my last company they stopped doing DIY manuals when the doc team manager,
the administrator, and one of the technical writers were tied up for one
entire day putting copies of the manual into three-ring binders. A real
waste of everyone's time and energy.

The first company I worked for, among other things I was responsible for
actually physically producing the manuals, and once I'd talked them into
providing me with my very own laser printer, it worked out okay: the manuals
were a lot shorter than those you describe, the software was evolving
underfoot, and new copies were being called for on a monthly basis. But it
was clear both to me and to my manager that this was strictly temporary
until the software stabilised and long print-runs were feasible. (One of my
*other* tasks was evailuating printers in the area to find out which one we
should switch to when that legendary day arrived.)

Jane Carnall
Technical Writer
TeMIP Engineering Group
Compaq in Reading, UK
xtn 1345

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