PDAs for Documentation

JoAnn T. Hackos, PhD
Director, The Center for Information-Development Management

In the Summer 2001 issue of Performance In Practice (an ASTD newsletter), Byron Hambly reports that the aerospace industry is developing technical documentation and training materials for handheld devices (Personal Digital Assistants or PDAs). They are called Interactive Electronic Technical Manuals (IETMs) and use Web pages, graphics, sound, and animation to provide detailed information for maintaining and operating aircraft. They are automatically synchronized, which means that the information remains up-to- date.

An IETM, as defined in the DoD IETM Specifications, is a package of information required for the diagnosis and maintenance of a weapons system, optimally arranged and formatted for interactive screen presentation to the end- user. It is a Technical Manual prepared (i.e., authored) by a contractor and delivered to the government or prepared by a government activity, in digital form on a suitable medium, by means of an automated authoring system. An IETM is designed for electronic screen display to an end-user and has the following three characteristics:

  • The information is designed and formatted for screen presentation to enhance comprehension.
  • The elements of technical data making up the technical manual are interrelated. A user’s access to required information is possible by a variety of paths.
  • The computer-controlled technical manual display device functions interactively (as a result of user requests and information input) to provide procedural guidance, navigational directions, and supplemental information.

IETMs allow a user to locate required information faster and more easily than is possible with a paper technical manual. They are easier to comprehend, more specifically matched to the system configuration under diagnosis, and are available in a form that requires much less physical storage than paper. Powerful interactive troubleshooting procedures, not possible with paper technical manuals, can be made available using the intelligent features of the IETM display device.

For more information, visit the US Navy Web site that describes IETMs