RE: User Guide - best practices

Subject: RE: User Guide - best practices
From: Sean Hower <hokumhome -at- freehomepage -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 29 Jul 2002 08:38:23 -0700 (PDT)

Lisa Conway asks:
What is the current best practice for a software manual?

Hi Lisa.
What I've done in the past is to have two major sections in the manual, a reference guide and a tutorials section.

The reference guide covered every nook and cranny of the software and was arranged by GUI elements, first control bars, then control panels accessed through those bars, then individual fields within the control panels.

The tutorials took the user through step-by-step instructions on how to accomplish real-world tasks. The nature of the software made it easy to do this sort of thing. It was a DVE editor so the tutorials were set around creating different kinds of transitional effects. They were also rated by difficulty level, with each tutorial building on the previous tutorial. The tutorials also included further info and helpful tips about the elements being used in the tutorial, so that theoretically all someone had to do was to go through the tutorials and they would learn what most of the screen elements were and what they did.

I liked the layout, and our users seemed to like it too. I'd suggest doing something like that if your product lends itself to such a set up. :-)

Sean Hower - tech writer

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