Online groups, spring 2011

User guides for mobile devices

A member wants to publish short user guides in a format that is suitable for mobile devices. He wants to know about the EPUB format (www.idpf.org/specs.htm). One colleague downloaded an EPUB file to an iPhone mobile device, and the file rendered well. Another colleague used an HTC mobile phone, but his mobile device did not read the EPUB file. The content must be available on all mobile devices. Is a PDF file that is designed for small screens a good alternative to the EPUB format?

Different HTC mobile phones use different operating systems. Probably, users will need to install a third-party e-reader for EPUB, which are available for mobile phones that use Android and Windows 7.

The Amazon Kindle e-reader is popular, but the Kindle does not support the EPUB format, although the EPUB format is popular.

Usually, in Europe, a PDF document has an A4 page size. A PDF document that is decreased in size to fit on a mobile device can be difficult to read, because text is small, and you must scroll left and right. If a PDF document has tags, the document can display satisfactorily on mobile devices. A tagged document improves accessibility, and lets text flow to fit the screen. However, tags increase the file size.

Because the support for mobile devices is not always good, create the PDF document with a small page size such as A5 and increase the font size to give a more usable document.

Different devices have different aspect ratios. Therefore, design the graphics carefully. To decrease the file size, decrease the number of pixels in the image.

Members suggest the following web pages:

New system for authoring

A technical communicator uses FrameMaker. She wants a new system that she can use to create different types of documents. Is single-sourcing the best option? How easy is it to create brochures, website content, help, and user manuals that have shared text? The documents have different audiences. Therefore, how useful is single-sourcing?

Possibly, a combination of FrameMaker and a content management system is sufficient. The forum on www.FrameUsers.com is useful, because many people have experience of similar problems.

Single-sourcing can decrease costs. However, not all documentation systems benefit from single-sourcing.

An unusual idea is to write the content in Scrivener (www.literatureandlatte.com). Then, export the content as plain text:

Page-turning effects

Flip Builder uses Flash to give a page-turning effect to a standard PDF file (www.flipbuilder.com). A member is developing a PDF e-book for a customer. The customer thinks that page-turning effects encourage people to read the information.

However, if people do not read a document because the document is not applicable or has errors, then an animated page does not help.

Some members think that a page-turning effect is irritating. If someone does not use Flash, then possibly, the e-book cannot be viewed. Possibly, accessibility will be a problem.

Flash is not permitted on Apple's mobile devices (www.apple.com/hotnews/thoughts-on-flash/).

A website developer says that the use of Flash is decreasing. An alternative to Flash is jQuery (http://jquery.com). The Booklet plug-in for jQuery gives a page-turning effect. A demonstration is on http://builtbywill.com/code/booklet/.

'20 things I learned about browsers and the web' from Google has page-turning effects (www.20thingsilearned.com). The page-turning effects are created with HTML5, not with Flash.

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