Re: Why We Need Good Software Manuals

Subject: Re: Why We Need Good Software Manuals
From: David Ibbetson <ibbetson -at- IDIRECT -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 22 Jan 1996 18:52:58 -0500

Caryn Rizell wrote:
> I'm glad this topic has come up. I recently received a call from a
> field rep for our products, and his question was "Why isn't there a
> manual?" (All our documentation for the product is online, except for
> the installation instructions.)

> I have always been a proponent of minimalist documentation. Big
> manuals intimidate me. I don't have time to read manuals unless I
> want to solve a problem. I figure if the manual is huge, the product
> is probably not very intuitive.

As a user I want a manual I can read and browse while travelling, while in
bed, when having a meal, on the beach, &c.

Some manuals are unnecessarily big because they seem to have been designed
for long-sighted middle-aged managers who are ashamed to wear the glasses
they so obviously need. (Please don't parse the preceding sentence. I think
the meaning is clear, I am sure the grammar is corrupt.)

When I'm looking for specific information I need a good index, written by
somebody that thinks as I do (or who liberally cross-references among
alternative names for the same topic).

I don't know whether my troubles come from the differences between UK
English and US English, (I grew up in and around London), or from inadequate
manuals. I place on-line help at the bottom of my choice list. Its one great
advantage is when one doesn't have the manual, either because the software
was sold (legally) without it, or because the software walked onto the
computer. To my mind providing a good manual with every legal copy of a
program and NO on-line help is an excellent way to discourage illegal
passing on of software.

David (the idiot) Ibbetson

David Ibbetson Phone (416) 363-6692
ibbetson -at- idirect -dot- com Fax (416) 363-4987
133 Wilton Street, #506
Toronto, Ontario
Canada M5A 4A4

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