Re: Approach for user manual

Subject: Re: Approach for user manual
From: "Mike Starr" <mike -at- writestarr -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 19 Jan 2007 02:36:47 -0600

The two basic approaches are task-based and reference-based documentation.

Task-based documentation tackles how to accomplish the most common tasks the user must know how to perform, usually using step-by-step procedures. In the course of explaining the procedures, one typically explains the screen objects (windows, controls, etc.) encountered.

Reference-based documentation explores the entire user interface and provides a description of every dialog box and menu item.

My own opinion is that good documentation should contain both task-based and reference-based documentation. Whether this all comes together in a comprehensive document is a matter of corporate style and philosophy. However, I believe that every control on a dialog box should be explained in some way. The programming environment provides for F1 help, tooltip text and status bar text for every one of those objects. I figure I'm going to have to write all of that stuff anyway, why not create a reference manual in the process? In addition, I believe the user is entitled to a fairly comprehensive procedure-based documentation. They need to be able to look up "How do I adjust the muffler bearings?", etc.

So my answer to your question of which one is more suitable? Both. Will your company allow you to do that? It's up to the pointy-haired bosses <grin>.

Best regards,


Best regards,

Mike Starr WriteStarr Information Services
Technical Writer - Online Help Developer - Website developer
Graphic Designer - Desktop Publisher - MS Office Expert
Phone: (262) 694-1028 - Tollfree: (877) 892-1028 - Fax:(262) 697-6334
Email: mike -at- writestarr -dot- com - Web:

----- Original Message -----
From: Samir Sachdeva (STEAG) <s -dot- sachdeva -at- steagindia -dot- in>
Subject: Approach for user manual

Hi All,

Can anyone explain me the difference between a screen-based approach and a task-based approach for writing a user manual. I need to start the documentation of a new product and my company has asked me to evaluate both these approaches and find the more suitable one. The product is Simulator, which simulates the complete working of a power plant and shows it on the screen.

Thanks in advance,

Samir Sachdeva

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