Re: Discuss: Third party manuals?

Subject: Re: Discuss: Third party manuals?
From: Suzanne Lee <suzanne -at- AUTOSIM -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 14 Apr 1995 16:06:37 -0600

> "Geoff Hart asked: <<If we do such a great job documenting software,
> why are so many people making a good living writing third party "how
> to" books? What are they doing right and what are we doing wrong?>>"

One reason *I* would buy them (or at least look through them) is to help me
decide whether to purchase the software in the first place. Another option
would be to verify whether a new release is worth the upgrade price. I'd
rather shell out $25 for a look at what's new than $89+ for the actual
upgrade, only to find out that it isn't as cool as the marketing lit made
it sound [I know *that* never really happens ; ) ]

Yet another reason would be to compare two products - for example,
PageMaker and Quark - and see whether they are actually any different from
each other and which one would be better suited to the tasks I perform.

I kind of resent the implication in this thread that most people who
purchase these books have stolen the software (please don't flame me;
that's just how I've taken the comments). My company legally owns
PageMaker, yet I learned a lot more from a third party book than I did from
the manual. It had a lot more short cuts, and seemed focused on
applications of the technology (procedures) rather than the features
themselves (PageMaker's index is not task-oriented and leaves something to
be desired, as does their tech support, IMHO). The people writing the 3rd
party books are often people in the work world who use the products,
struggling with the same real-world problems the rest of us have with the
software. I think this is a different perspective than the vendor's
writers take, and can be useful.

Finally, I think it's possible that these books come out after the software
does, so they have a time advantage for getting things straight - even a
few weeks can make a difference, as I'm sure we all know. And since they
are not published by the company, they might be a bit more objective about
how things work and about possible work-arounds to the "that's not a
defect, it's a feature" features.

Phew, enough. Have a good weekend everyone.

from Suzanne Lee - suzanne -at- autosim -dot- com
AutoSimulations, Inc. - Bountiful, UT
(801)298-1398 ext 333 fax (801)298-8186

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