Re: HOW TOs?

Subject: Re: HOW TOs?
From: Jan Henning <henning -at- r-l -dot- de>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 28 Feb 2002 14:33:50 +0100

>- Go through the definitions and tasks windows by giving a simple background
>and then a "How to..?" approach to explain the usage of each field.

IMHO, you are mixing up to approaches that each have their merits:

1) Explaining each interface object (e.g., field in an entry mask,
button, menu comamnd).

2) Explaining how to perform common tasks with the software. (Which may
well involve several unrelated elements, e.g., two menu commands.)

Mixing up the two may take away the advantages of each: Because you
choose the narrative "how to" approach, the document is difficult to use
as a reference. Because you limit task explanations to a single group of
interface elements (e.g., a data entry mask), the task may not be
described fully.

My favorite appraoch to software manuals is to have two parts:

One task oriented one where I describe all the tasks that a user may want
to perform with the software, irrespective of the interface elements
associated with the task. This answer user questions of the "How can I
..?" kind.

The other section is the reference, where each and every interface
element is listed in a suitable order and described. This answers "What
does ... do?" questions.

This seems to be similar to a combination of your original suggestion and
that of your boss.

As to Tom's comment ("Do what the boss wants."): Yes, in the end the
decision is his, and given your lack of experience, it is inadvisable to
put up a fight. (After all, he _may_ actually know better than you.) On
the other hand, engaging in a constructive discussion, comparing goals
and ways to reach them, is not picking a fight, and I encourage you to
present your reasons for doing what you want and try to reach a mutually
agreeable solution.

Hope this helps
Jan Henning

Jan Henning
Am Schlossberg 14, D-82547 Eurasburg, Germany

Phone: +49 700 0200 0700, Fax: +49 81 79 93 07 12
E-Mail: henning -at- r-l -dot- de, Web:
Handelsregister: München HRB 99345

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HOW TOs?: From: Radwa Darwish

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