Re: minimal manuals

Subject: Re: minimal manuals
From: Jonathan Lavigne <jpl -at- LYRA -dot- STANFORD -dot- EDU>
Date: Mon, 17 May 1993 22:15:32 GMT

warrenk -at- jacobs -dot- CSOS -dot- ORST -dot- EDU (Karin Warren) writes:

>I'm interested in learning about software manuals written in the
>"minimalist" style. Info on it is scanty; so far all I can find are
>two articles: The Minimal Manual, Human-Computer Interaction, 1987-88,
>vol. 3, and Usability Testing a Minimal Manual..., IEEE Professional
>Communication, Mar. 93, vol. 36.

>Are there any good books available on the subject, particularly those
>that give step-by-step instructions on creating a minimal manual or
>editing a maximal manual? I'm looking for rules, guidelines, etc.

>On an entirely different topic and assuming most of you are STC members,
>does anyone know how to get an electronic index of articles published
>in STC's Technical Communication, say of the past 5 years or so? I'm
>going crazy looking through stacks of back issues for specific articles.


The major theoretical dicussion of minimalist documentation is John
Carroll's book The Nurnberg Funnel (MIT, 1990 ISBN 0-262-02163-9).
It's well worth reading, though it's not really intended as a
practical guide. The January 1992 issue of * THE JOURNAL OF
COMPUTER DOCUMENTATION (Vol. 16, no 1) is devoted to Carroll's book
and the issues it raises. (That's an asterisk at the start of the
title, by the way, so you may find this journal listed under

We've experimented with minimalist guides and found that beginners
much prefer them to lengthier manuals. I don't know if you can get
away from reference manuals altogether, but they can certainly put
off users who are new to a system.

To answer your second question. CARL's UnCover database indexes
TECHNICAL COMMUNICATIONS. You can get to it by telnetting to and going through the various menus until you get
to the UnCover database.

Jonathan Lavigne BL -dot- JPL -at- RLG -dot- STANFORD -dot- EDU
Research Libraries Group/Stanford University

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