Autumn 91 - Editor's Note
I'd like to bring up a subject that's been on my mind lately and a matter of interest to me--and
probably to many of you--for quite some time now. It's the subject of what we called the "paperless
office" as far back as the Seventies, when I worked in the same group as Doug Engelbart, inventor of
the mouse. I laughed to myself back then when I'd hear predictions that in ten years or so, manuals
would be obsolete. Who needs information in any form other than electronic? Printed manuals
persist, but they're definitely an endangered species. At Apple and many other companies like it, the
trend is toward "on-line only" dissemination of information: it uses the technology in zippy ways, it
costs less, and it saves trees. Who needs paper, anyway?
I myself don't care if I ever see most memos, notes, reports, and similar daily jottings in print. I
prefer to file the majority of this stuff on-line rather than in my physical file cabinets, which I mostly
use to hold rice cakes and pistachio nuts. When I need a reminder of some technical information like
the meaning of a parameter or the definition of a word, I like quick on-line access to it as much as
the next person. And Balloon Help is great when I'm wondering what a particular command or
button is for.
But when I don't know how to do something at all, or how different pieces fit together, I prefer to
read printed documentation. I'm speaking here of the background material that's needed to get you
launched on a particular product in a way that will make you really know what it's about. (Whether
this information is needed at all could be the subject of another editorial.) Call it "concepts" versus
"reference." For me, there's nothing like reading about concepts in a real book when and where I
want. The image that comes to mind is "curling up in front of a fire." I'd much sooner do that with
a good novel than a technical manual, but still I like to pick a place and time away from my
computer to take in the concepts. It's quieter and more comfortable, especially on my eyes, and it's a
more pleasing visual and tactile experience. I learn more that way. Later, I might want to look up
some conceptual material on-line, but for first-time reading and learning, I want hard copy.
At the last company I worked for we surveyed a lot of developers on this, and most of them seemed
to agree. We decided to divide our technical documentation along those exact lines: concepts versus
reference; concepts would always be available as a printed manual while reference would be on-line
only (or primarily, at least).
This all ties in with the fact that Apple Associates and Partners no longer receive a printed copy of
develop as part of their regular mailing; they have to subscribe to develop to receive it in print. The
mailing has been simplified to be just a CD-ROM disc and a 16-page publication in newspaper
format that points to things on the disc. Those developers who don't want a lot of paper don't have
to deal with it; those who do can order it. So Associates and Partners will cast their vote for paper
develop by subscribing to it. (Letters from all of you expressing your opinions--especially when they
agree with mine--are of course more than welcome.)
Speaking of electronic media, those of you who were receiving develop with its CD-ROM disc bound
into it will notice that the disc corresponding to this issue has been packaged separately in its own
case (made of partially recycled fiberboard and plastic). This should put a stop to the problem of
mangled discs. Also, the disc is no longer the Developer Essentials disc, but the Developer CD Series
disc, the same disc that Apple Associates and Partners receive. We hope this will make life easier for
us and less confusing for you (not to mention that you'll get more goodies on the disc than before!).
I'll end with a vaguely related trivia question: What word was used instead of "click" to describe the
action of pressing a button on that first mouse? If you've got any good trivia questions of your own,
send them along to us. We need all the help we can get.
CAROLINE ROSE has been writing computer documentation ever since "peripheral storage" meant paper tape. After a
seven-year digression into programming, she returned to writing and joined Apple to document the inner workings of a
new computer named Macintosh. In what proved to be another (five-year) digression, she left Apple to launch NeXT
Computer's documentation effort--a real learning experience. She's thrilled to be back at Apple among old friends and
new. Caroline loves to read, swim, hike, travel, dance, sing, and spend time with her best friend, Cleo (see photo). This
summer she got her feet wet (literally) on a backpacking trip in Utah, through a tributary of the Escalante River and some
pretty spectacular canyons. Her new wilderness goals are hiking up Half Dome and rafting the Colorado. *
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