Re: What type of document is this?

Subject: Re: What type of document is this?
From: "Monique Semp" <monique -dot- semp -at- earthlink -dot- net>
To: "Sean McKean" <Sean -dot- McKean -at- FINEOS -dot- com>, "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 28 Feb 2012 08:00:59 -0800

It's a 50-page document that explains what the software does. It lists the features and briefly describes what users can do on each screen. There are no procedures in it though - we have a much longer user's guide for that. It's a post-release document, and it'll be used as a definitive list of what the product contains. We're producing two versions: a 'product' version containing the UI features, and a 'technical' version.


I'd suggest taking a look at the Microsoft Manual of Style's "Titles of Publications" section. I'm looking at the 3rd edition (the 4th ed. just came out but I haven't bought it yet), and the following three suggestions look particularly applicable:

* Companion - for end users, "Overview of product features, often describing projects the user can accomplish with the product, such as publishing a newsletter. Often highly visual and informal."

And this fosters a use-case presentation, which is likely more helpful to readers than a screen-by-screen description. After all, users don't approach a software app with the intention of using its screens; the users instead want to accomplish some particular task. (I'm not suggesting a big rewrite -- but I am assuming that there is a rough correspondence between "each screen" and "broad user task".)

* Feature Guide - for end users, "Overview of product features."

I've adapted this several times, and called the doc a "Feature Reference", which typically corresponds well to a screen-by-screen doc organization.

* Idea Book - for end users, "Task-oriented. Highlights certain features of the product. Often includes sample files."

I really like this because it provides a good launch point for users. That is, they don't get quite so caught up in the application's screens, but *what* the app can do, even beyond what the user already knows that they need.

(And do let us know what you decide on :-),

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