Power Tools for Technical Communication:
First-Pass Review


In this lab, you perform a "first-pass" review on an excerpt from instructions. (To do this lab, you need to have studied Chapters 18, 19, and related chapters from Part 1. Also useful are the online chapters on content, organization, and transitions.)
  1. Print these pages out so that you can make your comments in the margins with a pen or pencil.
  2. Study Chapter 18 of Power Tools for Technical Communication, paying particular attention to first-pass reviewing.
  3. Study the text carefully for problems involving the following:
    • Lack of content for the intended audience
    • Useless or incomprehensible content (from the intended audience's point of view)
    • Chunks of information not sequenced properly (organization problems)
    • Inadequate transitions
    • Weak or nonexistent introduction
  4. Make your comments in the margins of the printout.
  5. Write a review-summary memo (similar to the one in Chapter 22 of Power Tools for Technical Communication in which you summarize your observations about this document and make recommendations (be nice!).
  6. Put your name, First-Pass Review, and the date on both documents, and hand them in to your instructor.


Comparison of HTML Editors for Small Business Owners

HTML means Hypertext Markup Language. HTML editors are programs that enable the user to write computer code, which can then be posted and viewed on the World Wide Web. This enables small businesspersons to expand their customer base without having to hire large sale forces.

Background

Before comparing HTML editors, it's important to understand some history and some basic terms.

History. The essential idea behind the World Wide Web is hypertext. The idea of hypertext was first conceived in the 1940s by Vannevar Bush, named in the 1960s by Ted Nelson, but did not become practical until advances in computer speed, storage, and monitors came about in the 1980s. Before the World Wide Web, creating hypertext was difficult and expensive. Special tools for editing, building, and viewing hypertexts were necessary. The Web, however, brought forth a brilliant solution that made creating and viewing hypertexts practically free. All you need is an Internet-connected computer, simple text editor, a web browser, and some knowledge of HTML codes¾or an HTML editor.

But to get to the Web, the Internet had to develop first. The Internet had its inception in 1957 when the USSR launched the first man-made satellite. Part of the US response was to create the Advanced Research Projects Agency, or ARPA, to ensure that US technology could keep up with the Soviets. In the late 1960s, ARPA commissioned an experimental computer network, to be called Arpanet. This network used a new technology for transmitting information called "packet switching," which would become the Internet's standard. Packet-switching works like this: in order to send information over a network, it is first broken into "packets." Instead of having the source computer make a direct connection with the destination computer (the way a telephone call works), each packet gets sent out over a network of many computers with many lines between them. Each packet contains its destination address and can "find" its way to the destination computer, where the packets are all reassembled. The appeal of the Arpanet system to the US government was that if a nuclear bomb ever knocked out parts of the military network, data would be "smart" enough to find its way across other parts of the network that remained intact. Arpanet grew fairly quickly into the mid-1970s (although at the time it was very expensive to participate in it). In 1975, the US military took firmer control of the network, restricting it to military uses, which spurred non-military types who had been using Arpanet to form their own networks. Email was invented in 1972, though its usefulness took a while to become evident.

ARPA spurred development of a packet-switching protocol called TCP/IP (Transfer Control Protocol/Internet Protocol), which allowed different networks to all interconnect, and Arpanet itself began using TCP/IP in 1983. TCP/IP software was free and available to all, and it was this ability to interconnect separate networks that created what we know today as "the Internet." The Internet uses TCP/IP to this day. In 1984 the National Science Foundation began pumping money into the creation of NSFNET, which funded some of the Internet's big improvements. The Internet kept growing through the '80s, and in 1990 the original player, Arpanet, was finally shut down. It's useful to remember here that while the Internet had many devotees by this time, there was still no World Wide Web, no way to point and click around the Internet, and no way to view pictures unless you downloaded them and opened them up in a graphics program. Significant developments were made to allow people to catalog, find, and retrieve information (notably methods named Archie, gopher, and Veronica), but the big break came in 1992, when Tim Berners-Lee, a physicist at CERN (the European Laboratory for Particle Physics in Switzerland), invented the World Wide Web to aid in his physics research. He invented it for his own use, but it soon spread like wildfire. Berners-Lee used elements of a markup language called SGML to make it possible to format Web pages and include hypertext links. This made it possible for complete novices to point and click their way around a world of information using a Web browser. Then in 1993, Marc Andreessen and his compatriots at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) created the first Web browser, called Mosaic. Mosaic could view graphics, play sounds, use gopher, FTP, email, and newsgroups.

Terminology. By whatever means it is delivered, a hypertext is characterized by several essential components:

If you've used the World Wide Web much at all, this is familiar ground. A hypertext can occur in any electronic delivery medium such as a CD-ROM, not just the Web. What may not be so familiar is how to structure a hypertext. A hypertext consists of these essential components:

Points of Comparison

There are many HTML editors available on the market, but Dreamweaver 3 by Macromedia, Hot Dog Professional 6 by Sausage Software, and FrontPage 98 by Microsoft are generally recognized as the leaders.

  • Availability: Dreamweaver and Hot Dog are both available for purchase on the Internet. Both products also have free fully functional 30-day trial downloads available. FrontPage does have a free trial version, but it is not available as a download. The full version of FrontPage is only available at computer-software stores.

  • Requirements: All three programs support Windows 95/98/2000 and NT. All three require 32 MB RAM and 20MB hard disk space. All three recommend using a Pentium processor. Hot Dog recommends for the best performance of the software that 64 MB of RAM be available.

  • Customer Service Help: FrontPage has the usual Microsoft customer service help, which is not much help. But you can log on to the Microsoft Web page and read helpful articles, FAQs and even sign up for on-line courses for an additional fee. Hot Dog Pro has free e-mail answers usually within 24 hours for registered users. Hot Dog also has a premium support service that guarantees an answer within 24 hours. The cost of this service is $70.00 per year. Dreamweaver has free support for 90 days for the registered user. After the first 90 days, Dreamweaver bills each inquiry at the average rate of $25.00 per inquiry. Dreamweaver also has a premium support service that will move your inquiry to the top of the line to be answered more quickly. The cost of this service is $100.00 per year. Dreamweaver also has many articles, e-mail groups, and FAQ in which to learn more about their products.

  • Cost: FrontPage retails for $150.00, Hot Dog Pro 6 sells for $100.00 and Dreamweaver sells for $400.00.   Help Function and Ease of Use: If you are familiar with Microsoft Word, then you will feel at ease using FrontPage. The screen layout is almost the same as in Word, and many of the function calls are the same in both programs. The help function is adequate but hardly verbose in its help. It is fairly easy to produce an informational page without many bells and whistles. There are pre-formatted page designs to choose from, as well as easy inserts for navigation bars, hit counters and other basics for a web page.

    Hot Dog first opens a help file and a tutorial. The help and tutorial functions guide the first time user through the program making it very easy to produce a web page. It is a little more intricate than FrontPage, but with a little time and patience, I was able to make a fun web page after printing out the tutorial pages and then working from the instructions. There are many shortcuts to adding tables, buttons, and navigation bars and animating text.

    Dreamweaver provides fully animated tutorials that guide the user through nearly every aspect of using the program. I really liked how the tutorial showed which spot to click and how it should show up on the screen so the user could immediately see if they had done the step correctly. The user is also able to download the printed version of the tutorial in order to follow along and make notes. After using the tutorial and applying a bit of diligence, you should be able to put together quite a nice website. However, Dreamweaver is a very robust HTML editor that has more features than most people would ever use unless they were in the business of web design. At first glance, this program can be somewhat overwhelming to the non-technical person. This may be the reason the tutorial is explicit because of the volume of information the user needs to fully use the program. Dreamweaver rates the best for the help function, and Hot Dog rates the best for ease of use.

  • Features: All three programs support the basics of HTML programming, including; CSS, plug-ins, Java applets, navigation bar creation, frames, table making, and HTML cleanup. While all three programs support these basics, they do so at different levels. FrontPage offers the fewest features, while Dreamweaver supports more features than you ever dreamed possible.

    Table 1. Comparisons of HTML Editors
    Categories
    FrontPage
    Hot Dog Pro 6
    Dreamweaver
    Availability
    3
    1
    1
    Requirements
    1
    1
    1
    Customer Service
    3
    1
    2
    Cost
    2
    1
    3
    Help Feature
    3
    2
    1
    Ease of Use
    2
    1
    1
    Features
    3
    2
    1
    Overall Rating
    3
    1
    2
    Key: 1=best 2=second best 3=third best

    Recommendation

    For businesspersons wanting to create their own web pages, I recommend Hot Dog Pro 6. It is inexpensive and easy to use. The help features and customer service are good enough to enable a non-technical person to get their web site up and running without looking amateurish. Further, if business owners become thoroughly frustrated, they have not spent a fortune on the editor and may still be able to afford to hire a web designer.


  • Programs and information provided by hcexres@prismnet.com.