My experience is that my users prefer viewing PDFs, preferring PDF over 

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 

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 

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.


"Kelly McDaniel" <kmcdaniel at> 
Sent by: framers-bounces at
01/22/2009 11:40 AM

<framers at>

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


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