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'Thoughts on PDF? (A Bit Off Topic)'
1997\06\06@150915 by Todd Peterson

picon face
Sorry for the bit off-topic post; I saw PIC traffic was down a bit and
thought I'd ask a question that's been on my mind recently.

Although several in the past have commended us on our IC's PDF datasheets
(on our web site), we have one individual recently who insists that
PDF-format datasheets will be the downfall of mankind (no, I'm serious - the
guy has written many times complaining).  Of course we offer to send a
printed version to him, but he actually just wants us to not use PDF
(stating that we and all other companies using PDF are "lazy")?!?

He suggests we make our datasheets for online browsing - putting them in
HTML, with the 10-15 images per datasheet in .gif format (or such).

I see that this certainly is not a common practice with many other
companies; I would like to know the opinions of my fellow PIC designers on
this matter - is PDF dreaded to you all?  Would you use an HTML version of
the datasheets?

And feedback would be appreciated!

PLEASE SEND RESPONSES TO ME PERSONALLY AT spam_OUTtpetersonTakeThisOuTspamnetins.net or
.....elabKILLspamspam@spam@netins.net

**DO NOT** REPLY TO THE PIC LIST in order to keep off-topic threads from
starting & minimize bandwidth.

I will post a summary of responses to the list & will send responses I
receive to anyone interested.

Thanks again,

Todd Peterson

P.S. - I am very appreciative of any feedback on this matter.

E-Lab Digital Engineering, Inc.
 "Embedded Control & Integrated Circuit Solutions"

EDE300 IC -  Stamp I/O Expander & PC Interface IC
EDE700 IC -  Serial to LCD Interface IC
EDE1200 IC - Stepper Motor Controller
EDE1400 IC - Serial to Parallel-Printer IC

http://www.netins.net/showcase/elab

1997\06\06@214601 by David Gould

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face
> Although several in the past have commended us on our IC's PDF datasheets
> (on our web site), we have one individual recently who insists that
> PDF-format datasheets will be the downfall of mankind (no, I'm serious - the
> guy has written many times complaining).  Of course we offer to send a
> printed version to him, but he actually just wants us to not use PDF
> (stating that we and all other companies using PDF are "lazy")?!?
>
> He suggests we make our datasheets for online browsing - putting them in
> HTML, with the 10-15 images per datasheet in .gif format (or such).
>
> I see that this certainly is not a common practice with many other
> companies; I would like to know the opinions of my fellow PIC designers on
> this matter - is PDF dreaded to you all?  Would you use an HTML version of
> the datasheets?

Ok, as a long time net user (even before html), and sometime datasheet and
catalog user, I really like paper for large or diverse documents. I have been
using the web and pdf forms of the digikey catalog and finally ordered a
paper copy. I have been using the pdf forms of the Microchip datasheets and
find that I have to print them to really be happy.

Why? With paper I can read it anywhere at full quality and resolution. Perhaps
I am a Luddite, but even with the 21" monitor at work, or my 17" at home,
very dense printed material is hard to deal with for a long period. I would
not be tempted to try to read for example the pdf Digikey catalog on a
laptop.

Also, somehow paper supports what I will call "hardware store wandering"
better. "hardware store wandering" is when you have got every thing you came
for and just are wandering around in the store, looking at gizmos, free
associating, having ideas, gee isn't that a neat thingy, maybe about what to
do for the next project or sometime someday. Great source of creativity,
possibly only surpassed by thinking in the shower.

Or suppose you just want to understand a bit about a topic you don't know,
say you are thinking, I have an application that might be right for fuzzy
logic, but I know nothing about fuzzy logic. How do I find out enough
about fuzzy logic to see if I want to invest in really learning it?

So, what does this have to do with html vs pdf. PDF almost always seems to
print much better than html. On the other hand, I probably print less than
5% of what I read and html lends itself to random or directed exploration
really well. Just click here and there and see where you land. Like it?
make a bookmark. Don't like it? go back, or follow the next link...

If you could do this with pdf fine, but as far as I can tell, you have to
decide that you want the whole darn 3.8 meg document, download it, fire up
Acrobat, read it on the screen or print it. Depending on how fast your
connection is and how overfull your machine is, it takes a few seconds or
minutes. And then you discover that you weren't really interested in that
specific thing out of the list of 600 application notes in pdf format that you
could download. With html, you can see a few pages and decide not to download
the rest. Or decide, "wow, thats just what I wanted, I wonder if there is a
pdf I can download".

On the other hand, I find large one piece html documents unwieldy too. The
image quality and information density are definitly better with pdf. html
does not seem like the right thing for a 388 page datasheet. Almost, but not
quite. Perhaps pdf is not much better, but it does give you better viewing
and especially print quality.

Finally, I now have (in just one short week of looking around) over 40 .pdf
files with names like:

 21189a.pdf 30189d.pdf 30264a.pdf 30390e.pdf 40122b.pdf an515.pdf
 an520d.pdf an529.pdf an535.pdf an541.pdf an542.pdf an546.pdf
 an548.pdf an556.pdf an563.pdf an579.pdf an585.pdf an600.pdf an616.pdf

Great, I've only had this stuff for three days and already I have no
idea what it is. And pdf can't be searched with things like 'grep'
either (unlike html) so to figure it out, I have to open each one and look
at it individually. I'm really not going to enjoy this when I have something
like a thousand of these things.

Bottom line, html is easier to navigate, easier to search, more of an open
standard, but is limited in formatting capability and compression. You might
try Microchips idea that they use on their site, of giving you an html copy
of the first page of a data sheet. Or make overviews of a larger pdf document.
Perhaps having both is the best answer, or maybe set a threshold, say 20 pages
for making pdf otherwise make html.

I will say, if I ran into a site that had a big list of .pdf downloads and
no immediately useful visible content, I would probably not bother with it
unless I really needed something very specific and already knew exactly
what.

I have tried to keep ideology out of this and just present my impressions
as a somewhat experienced user of both types of document. I hope this
helps.

-dg

David Gould           dgspamKILLspamillustra.com            510.869.6383 or 510.305.9468
Informix Software (formerly Illustra)  1111 Broadway #2000  Oakland, CA 94607
- I realize now that irony has no place in business communications.

1997\06\06@223850 by John Payson

picon face
> Ok, as a long time net user (even before html), and sometime datasheet and
> catalog user, I really like paper for large or diverse documents. I have been
> using the web and pdf forms of the digikey catalog and finally ordered a
> paper copy. I have been using the pdf forms of the Microchip datasheets and
> find that I have to print them to really be happy.

I've gotten a number of data sheets from Microchip and others in PDF format.
I think it's useful to be able to print out a data sheet which matches very
closely the printed data books from Microchip.  I agree with you and many
others that paper is often *the* medium of choice, and PDF is better suited
to printing than HTML.

> Also, somehow paper supports what I will call "hardware store wandering"
> better. "hardware store wandering" is when you have got every thing you came
> for and just are wandering around in the store, looking at gizmos, free
> associating, having ideas, gee isn't that a neat thingy, maybe about what to
> do for the next project or sometime someday. Great source of creativity,
> possibly only surpassed by thinking in the shower.

Here, it depends.  For random "flip and see if I find something interesting",
nothing beats paper.  For "I'd like a Quad rail-to-rail op amp with a 1mA
quiescent current, 50uV ofset, 1kV/second slew rate, and output drivers
that can sink/source 50mA", text-based computer documents can be better.

If I have a paper document with all the stuff in it that I might want to
read (e.g. a full Microchip PIC databook) then I can efficiently flip to
the parts of interest.  On the other hand, getting the whole book via
modem would take excessively long--especially since I don't need 95% of
it.

Personally, I would like to see sites do the following:

[1] When practical, include HTML copies of data sheets (with embedded
   GIFs as needed, but with text as searchable text)

[2] For devices with large (>10 pages) data sheets, publish both a "com-
   plete" file which contains the entire data sheet, and "highlights"
   files that include specific parts (for example, the AC/DC electrical
   specifications for PIC devices).  It's rather frustrating to have to
   download an entire meg file just to discover that the output current
   for a Wowzo 600 is 15mA.

[3] Give the .PDF files meaningful names, and provide an easily-downloadable
   file listing the names/descriptions of past and present .PDF files
   which are/were available for download.

1997\06\07@023152 by Matthew Taylor

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face
At 01:56 PM 6/6/97 -0500, you wrote:
{Quote hidden}

I have found the pdf format to be a great way of distributing data sheet
information.  I can just browse through a list on a web site, click on it
with Netscape and have the acrobat plugin fire up the reader for me, and
besides the 30-40 secs it takes to grab one on burst transfer beats
clicking on links and having to download each html page one by one.

Matthew Taylor

1997\06\07@111423 by Andy Kunz
flavicon
face
>5% of what I read and html lends itself to random or directed exploration
>really well. Just click here and there and see where you land. Like it?
>make a bookmark. Don't like it? go back, or follow the next link...

Sounds like you need to look at getting Acrobat 3 documents.  They support
that (check out the new Microchip or Maxim CDs).

>Finally, I now have (in just one short week of looking around) over 40 .pdf
>files with names like:
>
>  21189a.pdf 30189d.pdf 30264a.pdf 30390e.pdf 40122b.pdf an515.pdf
>  an520d.pdf an529.pdf an535.pdf an541.pdf an542.pdf an546.pdf
>  an548.pdf an556.pdf an563.pdf an579.pdf an585.pdf an600.pdf an616.pdf

I put together a CD of PDF's, with multiple directories indicating the
source.  Shoot, at one point I even downloaded the entire Microchip site
onto disk (it had things not on the CDs).

Andy

==================================================================
Andy Kunz - Montana Design - 409 S 6th St - Phillipsburg, NJ 08865
         Hardware & Software for Industry & R/C Hobbies
       "Go fast, turn right, and keep the wet side down!"
==================================================================

1997\06\07@122834 by David Gould

flavicon
face
I just sent you email suggesting that you might have posted a reply to private
email from me. Now I see more replies from other people, so it looks like I
must have posted my message inadvertantly. I'll go wipe the egg of my face now.

-dg

David Gould           .....dgKILLspamspam.....illustra.com            510.869.6383 or 510.305.9468
Informix Software (formerly Illustra)  1111 Broadway #2000  Oakland, CA 94607
- I realize now that irony has no place in business communications.

1997\06\07@134007 by rzeff

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face
One of the really great advantages is in creating the pdf. If
you can print it, you can create the pdf file.  This is especially
handy if you've created the document in the past and need
to quickly get it up on the web.

Robert Zeff
Nikola Engineering
EraseMErzeffspam_OUTspamTakeThisOuTNikola.com
http:Nikola.com
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Free Windows 95 / NT Spice Circuit Simulator
Free Windows 95 / NT Filter design tools

1997\06\07@184356 by William Chops Westfield

face picon face
To my mind, pdf currently offers the best compromise between printability
(which everyone seems to agree is important) and on-line viewability.  I
could wish for improvements in both, but it's not bad at all.  The biggest
problem seems to be that data sheets intended for printing tend to have
really small fonts by display standards, so it's difficult to get a "full
page" displayed on a monitor at any one time (and of course screen and page
aspect ratios are a complete mis-match.)

Someone mentioned that pdf files couldn't be searched.  The last time I
downloaded acrobat (3.0, I think), a search feature was one of the
downloadable options, so perhaps that HAS improved...

(now, a natural language database capable of searching and printing data
sheets with pdf quality...  That would be sweet!)

BillW
cisco

1997\06\08@170708 by John Payson

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face
> Someone mentioned that pdf files couldn't be searched.  The last time I
> downloaded acrobat (3.0, I think), a search feature was one of the
> downloadable options, so perhaps that HAS improved...
>
> (now, a natural language database capable of searching and printing data
> sheets with pdf quality...  That would be sweet!)

Unfortunately, there are no facilities such as AltaVista which can search
through many .PDF files on the web to find information you may be looking
for; AltaVista etc. are limitted to HTLM and text files.  Perhaps if DEC
were to upgrade AltaVista so it could search through other file types
(including PDF's and .ZIP'ed PDF's) then this would no longer be a
problem.

1997\06\09@135503 by Rick Miller

picon face
David,

Excellent!  Well put and to the point.  Too bad you didn't mention how
crummy most PDF readers' user interface is while you were at it.

Rick Miller
rdmillerspamspam_OUTexecpc.com

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