your thoughts on screenshots?

Karsten Wade kwade at
Tue Mar 20 19:46:22 UTC 2007

I was explaining something this morning that I thought all could benefit
from.  I want to convince writers to avoid using screenshots.  What do
you think of this?

Here are the reasons:

* They are hard to translate.

* They have to be redone every time there is a change in the UI (string
or graphical change).
  - This comes from the rule, "Make certain what you tell/show the
reader is 100% accurate to what they see on the screen, or the reader
loses trust in you."
  - Changing text that refers to a UI is *much* easier to fix and
translate than the same change in a screenshot.

* They take up a lot of space on the screen/on paper.

* They don't show anything more than the reader is already looking at in
the application on their computer screen.

* At most, they confirm for the reader, "Yes, I see the same thing in
the documentation as I do on the screen, I am in the right place."  This
can be done with words alone.

* A description of a screen takes up less space than a screenshot.

* Since we do not want our documents to be a catalog of what can be done
in a UI screen, we're never interested in everything visible to the
reader.  We're interested in only a subset of what is in the UI.
Showing the entire UI in a screenshot is therefore distracting.

* A screenshot is not the same as a diagram or other useful graphic.

Okay, what are the advantages of using a screenshot?

* Useful if the reader cannot read the language of the document; the
screen shows them they are in the right place.

* Useful if the reader believes they cannot follow a document without

* Nice for desktop tours, to show what applications look like.

* Useful for when you need to define a specific term on the desktop, as
in the FDUG where the elements of the desktop are explained with a
graphic to show which piece it is.

I would like to make this part of our guidelines.  What do you all

- Karsten
Karsten Wade, RHCE, 108 Editor    ^     Fedora Documentation Project 
 Sr. Developer Relations Mgr.     |           |          gpg key: AD0E0C41
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