RE: why I like the Dummies books - was Boring documentation

Subject: RE: why I like the Dummies books - was Boring documentation
From: "Nuckols, Kenneth M" <Kenneth -dot- Nuckols -at- mybrighthouse -dot- com>
To: "Neumann, Eileen" <ENeuman -at- franklintempleton -dot- ca>, <hokumhome -at- freehomepage -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2006 11:43:31 -0500

Eileen Neumann said...

> I've used them, especially for subjects I'm not deeply interested in,
> need to know the basics. I like them because:
> * They're organized clearly
> * Large headings, and clear heading levels (helps to slot info into
> framework)
> * Good TOCs and indexes
> * They avoid the passive voice
> * They have lots of white space in margins and between sections
> * Of the cartoons

I don't _dislike_ the Dummies series--but I haven't done much other than
flip through them in the bookstores. When learning software, I prefer
books that provide applied knowledge and offer a progression through the
program. My favorite example of such a set of manuals (though it is
admittedly limited to the publisher's own software) is the Adobe CIB
(Classroom In a Book) series. These start off with orientation to the
software and then build a project, gradually introducing more advanced
features of the application.

I have to admit I like the ideas in terms of design, layout, and
formatting that some of the sample files offer, and from time to time
I've adopted these into things I'm doing in projects of my own. I also
like the way these books are designed and laid out.

For me, learning the software and having an immediate chance to apply
that knowledge in completing some task is paramount. I retain it better
if I immediately use what I'm learning instead of just reading about it.

I wish all publishers were as good as Adobe about creating companion
reference guides that allowed users to explore and use all the facets of
the program. I remember some years ago, when pursuing MOUS certification
for Microsoft Office apps, purchasing some manuals produced by Microsoft
that were geared toward preparing for the certifications. These were
okay, but I found them too narrowly focused on the certification exam
itself, and they often didn't venture into some of the most advanced
features of whatever program they were preparing you for certification.

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