RE: Reference Manual

Subject: RE: Reference Manual
From: Paul Hanson <PHanson -at- Quintrex -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 30 Jan 2001 13:04:20 -0600

In "How to Write a Usable User Manual," Edmond H. Weiss writes, "Reference
documentation - what some programmers mistakenly equate with user
documentation - is a compressed presentation of facts and information,
useful only to people who know what they need to know. Highly experienced
operators and users need nothing else; new and intermediate operators and
users need much more." Elsewhere, he states "Traditionally, user
documentation has been expected to help in two ways: Instruction, teaching
people how to run or operate the system or product [and] Reference, giving
people key definitions, facts, and codes that they could not be expected to

A style guide, such as Microsoft's Style Guide is a reference manual, to me.
A dictionary is a reference manual. A document that is procedures on how to
add, change, delete, and rename Gidgets is not a reference guide: it would
be an instruction manual, per Weiss's definition.

Paul Hanson

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Kim Washington [SMTP:thekutestkim -at- hotmail -dot- com]
> Sent: Tuesday, January 30, 2001 1:03 PM
> Subject: Reference Manual
> Can someone give me a definition of a reference manual or give me an
> example of one? A recruiter has asked if I'd ever written one, and I
> wasn't sure if I had because I may have never heard it referred to as
> that.

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