The University Record, December 5, 1995

Standard Practice Guide on-line

By Patricia E. Maki
Information Technology Division

No more heavy binders to haul around. No more wondering whether the copy you have is the most up-to-date. No more loss of trees for the sake of the U-M Standard Practice Guide (SPG). The SPG is now available online, and all U-M faculty, students and staff on all three campuses are welcome---and encouraged---to access it electronically.

The Office of University Audits and programmers and technicians from the Information Technology Division (ITD) worked as a team for nearly six months to bring the SPG online project to fruition. Staff from University Audits included Carl Smith, director; Paul Millis, senior auditor; and Paula Mitchell, secretary. ITD staff included Brian Vaughan, Jeremy Yoder and Susan P. Harris.

Millis notes that electronic access is available to anyone on campus who has access to a Macintosh, Sun or IBM-compatible computer with Windows and the ability to download Adobe Acrobat reader (necessary to open and read the files). A limited number of hard copies will be available for a time, and only to users who do not have the requisite hardware and software to access the SPG online.

"I envision a day when no hard copies of the SPG will exist," Smith says.

A critical step at the outset was selecting a storage format for the SPG that would handle the graphics and scanned attachments and retain the look and feel of the hard-copy SPG while enabling the widest possible University audience to view the online version. The team opted for the Portable Document Format (PDF) created by Adobe.

"We believe the advantages of using a Portable Document Format far outweigh the disadvantages," Vaughan says.

Another important step was to rekey the entire SPG, basing the retyped version on the outline procedures of the Chicago Manual of Style. The rekeying reduced the number of pages of the SPG by roughly one-third, from about 1,600 pages to 1,000.

Response from users during a test phase was highly favorable, especially to the search function---arguably the online SPG's biggest advantage, and one of the biggest obstacles during development.

For those who have not had previous access to the SPG, it is a wealth of information. The SPG contains organizational charts for the main departments and offices of the University. It also contains information on employment, staff benefits, library and research services, student affairs, purchasing, financial operations, parking, retirement, gift administration, smoking on campus, media relations, and much more.

For nearly 50 years, the U-M Standard Practice Guide has provided a central reference on University practices, policies and services. The first SPG (actually a Standard Practice "Bulletin") was distributed in March 1946 to a dozen people in the University business office. The SPG's distribution has since grown to about 1,150 copies. It has traditionally been given only to deans, directors and department heads---and other staff members whose positions required its regular use. Electronic access will not be restricted.

There may be a temptation to print out the entire SPG from the online file, but printing out the entire SPG would probably take several hours. If you must print out a section, bear in mind that when you need to refer back to that section, you should do so online to make sure you are referencing the most up-to-date version.

Although each department or office that develops an SPG section is responsible for its accuracy and maintenance, University Audits is the official custodian of the SPG manual itself, whether in hard copy or online, and is responsible for coordinating publication and distribution of the sections in final form. Contact them if you need a copy of the SPG and do not have the technological means to access it online. Questions relating to format, to creating and revising sections, or to distribution should also be directed to University Audits. Contact the issuing department or unit if you have questions about the content of a particular section.

The authorized online version from University Audits includes Revisions and New Sections, showing what has recently been revised. It shows up as a menu if you are using a Gopher client and as a link if you are using a Web client. Looking at the Revisions and New Sections information first may save a search through the entire SPG.

How to access the SPG On-line

Minimal requirements for online access are a Gopher or World-Wide Web client and Adobe Acrobat Reader. The Gopher clients TurboGopher and H-Gopher, and the Web clients Mosaic and Netscape, are available to the University community in the swdist directory on the Institutional File System. The complete pathname is /afs/umich.edu/group/itd/swdist. For detailed instructions on obtaining software from swdist, see QuickNote: Obtaining Software From U-M, Step-by-step S4147. QuickNotes are available at all University computing sites, in the Computing Handbook, on GOpherBLUE and on the World-Wide Web at the URL http://www.itd.umich.edu/itddoc/

The one-time downloading of the Adobe Acrobat reader should take no more than 30 minutes using a 14.4 Kbps modem. It takes only a couple of minutes over an Ethernet connection.

Using a Gopher Client

Use your Gopher client (for example, TurboGopher 2.0 or later for the Macintosh or H-Gopher 2.3c or later for Windows) to connect to GOpherBLUE. (Note: You must use a Gopher client on your computer to download the Adobe Acrobat Reader software. You will not be able to do this, for example, if you just type "gopher" at the prompt on the ITD Login Service or if you use communications software such as NCSA Telnet or Host Presenter to telnet to gopher.itd.umich.edu.)

From the main menu in GOpherBLUE, choose "U of Michigan and Ann Arbor" (for access from all three U-M campuses).

From that menu, choose "Standard Practice Guide ONLINE" to get to the SPG ONLINE main menu. If you already have the reader installed, simply choose the SPG sections you want to view from the menus.

If you don't have the reader software on your machine, you will get an error asking you to "Define a Viewer." You can download Adobe Acrobat Reader from the "Acrobat Reader" menu, which is in the SPG ONLINE main menu. You will find complete instructions in this menu for your particular platform.

Note that Gopher clients must download the SPG files to your machine for you to read them. You should get in the habit of deleting any downloaded SPG files from your machine when you finish your session. Always connect to the University Audits authoritative online version when you need to check the SPG since any downloaded files may have been updated.

Using a Web Client

Use your Web client (Netscape Navigator or NCSA Mosaic) to connect to http://www.umich.edu/~spgonlin/.

If you do not already have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed, click on the link "Adobe Acrobat Reader (required to view SPG documents)" so that the Web browser will see the new application. If you already have the reader installed, simply click the appropriate links to view the information you want to see.

Where to Go for Help

If you have a problem loading the appropriate Gopher or Web client or have trouble downloading the Adobe Acrobat Reader, contact your system administrator or phone the ITD computing consultants at 764-HELP. If you have difficulty accessing a particular SPG document, but other documents seem to work fine, contact the Office of University Audits at 764-8520.