Kelly, My experience is that my users prefer viewing PDFs, preferring PDF over paper.
We shifted from delivering paper operating manuals to delivering PDFs on CD a years ago. We were worried at first, but needlessly so. We even offered to ship printed, bound hardcopy for free to any user that requested it. Our users liked the change to PDF very much, and now prefer PDFs. I have not had a request for a hardcopy manual in years. Actually, customers have told their reps how much they prefer the PDFs. Our Service Department initially balked when we talked about doing away with hardcopy Service Manuals, but once they started using the PDFs they shifted quickly away from paper. I can put E size schematics in a PDF (beautiful vector drawings created directly from our CAD software --- for example, Service Technicians can print just a portion of the schematic at whatever zoom level they want on standard 8 1/2 x 11 paper or print the entire schematic on E size paper if the printer supports it). The Service Technicians now have PDFs that contain all the Service information they need, and they can always find a printer they can hook into to print hardcopy, if need be. But, honestly, the standard for them is to work from their laptop, viewing the PDF of the manual on screen. If users are connected to a printer, they will print out pages of interest to them. But, I've never heard of anyone actually printing a whole PDF to hardcopy. I do support a product line of hand held instruments used by HVAC technicians; more of a main stream, over-the-counter product. For example, when you call a HVAC technician to come service your central air conditioning, they will probably have in their truck a small hand held leak detector in a very tough case. We include small, short, paper manuals for those hand held products. We do not supply a CD with the manual on it to these people; they prefer paper (they can get their manual in PDF off of our website, though). Honestly, these instruments don't really need a manual anyway, and I suspect most of these paper manuals are quickly lost once people figure out how to install the batteries, how to set the sensitivity range, and turn it on/off. But, for my larger, more complicated instruments, PDF alone is just fine and is actually preferred by my customers. These instruments often come with specialized control software, and since those users are already using computers, PDF is a natural fit. This is especially true for instruments that are used in clean room environments. Years ago I prepared very expensive clean room paper manuals. A PDF viewed on their clean room computer is now the preferred choice by my users. These instruments are not sold "over the counter". They are purchased with Service Contracts and/or installation by trained technicians. We don't even supply short Quick Use Guides or Getting Started Guides (like those you get when you buy a new printer for your home computer) because only trained technicians should install the instrument. The installation parameters are in the Operating Manual PDF on the CD we supply, but in most cases a trained technician, working from a Service Manual PDF, does the actual instrument installation. Your situation may be different than mine. Perhaps your products are more "mainstream". But, for me, PDF works well for all but my hand held products, and PDF is preferred over hardcopy by all but my hand held product users. Richard "Kelly McDaniel" <kmcdaniel at pavtech.com> Sent by: framers-bounces at lists.frameusers.com 01/22/2009 11:40 AM To <framers at lists.frameusers.com> cc Subject PDF Documentation Quick Survey: Is it your experience that users view PDF documentation on their computer display in preference to printing it for use? If so, by what ratio of view:print? Opinions and SWAGs are fine. Kelly M. McDaniel Senior Technical Writer Pavilion Technologies A Rockwell Automation Company _______________________________________________ You are currently subscribed to Framers as rinch at inficon.com. Send list messages to framers at lists.frameusers.com. To unsubscribe send a blank email to framers-unsubscribe at lists.frameusers.com or visit http://lists.frameusers.com/mailman/options/framers/rinch%40inficon.com Send administrative questions to listadmin at frameusers.com. Visit http://www.frameusers.com/ for more resources and info.