Re: Why We Need Good Software Manuals

Subject: Re: Why We Need Good Software Manuals
From: CARYN_RIZELL -at- HP-ROSEVILLE-OM2 -dot- OM -dot- HP -dot- COM
Date: Wed, 24 Jan 1996 11:51:03 -0800

Maybe I'm not dedicated enough, but the only time I look at a manua=
l =

is when I need to find something. I rarely just open a manual and =
see =

what is inside. I just don't have the time to do that.

When I buy new software, I want to open it up, install it and start=

using it. I don't want to read the manual to figure out how to use=

it. I want a product that guides me through using it without havin=
g =

to read a manual. Wouldn't that be nice?

(I should also point out that I rarely write manuals anymore. I ha=
ve =

written online help exclusively for the last several years. So, wh=
en =

I look at a manual, I start thinking of all the things in it that =

should be online instead.)

Regarding the issue of whether online and paper docs should have th=
e =

same material. I still disagree with this. Putting everything in =

both places does not guarantee that you are providing the correct i=
nfo =

in the first place. Take MSWord documentation for example. The =

online docs and paper docs are almost identical. But I still can't=

find what I want! =


Also, I work on a product that has extensive context sensitive help=
=2E =

If I want help on a field, column header, menu item, graph, graph =

label, I can just click on it and get the info I need. Would you =

really want this type of info in a manual? I wouldn't. (But I am =

also opposed to manuals that consist of screenshots with each field=


Anyway, more fuel for the fire!

Caryn Rizell
Learning Products Engineer




______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________=
Subject: Re: Why We Need Good Software Manuals
Author: Non-HP-TECHWR-L (TECHWR-L -at- listserv -dot- okstate -dot- edu) at HP-Roseville=
Date: 1/24/96 12:26 AM

> It's a shame when a technical writer won't even read a technical =

> manual.
> Besides learning to use the product, it is good research to see how =

> other writers solve thorny problems, what new tricks are being used, =

> and how complex material can be organized. I think it would be a
> natural reaction for every tech writer to read (or at least skim) =

> any documentation he can get his hands on -- especially for the
> software he uses.

I agree with this statement that tech writers need to read manuals. I =

suppose I'm just weird because I "like" reading manuals (and =

textbooks, too, for that matter). I even keep a clipbook for =

reference. I borrowed software manuals all over the company for =

various programs and photocopied certain pages that I liked. Maybe I =

thought one manual had a clever way of displaying tips,
another had a nice table of contents, another had a great first page for=

each chapter. I keep all those pages in a 3-ring binder now for =


Jane Bergen
Jane Bergen, Technical Writer
janeb -at- answersoft -dot- com or janeb -at- airmail -dot- net
"The difference between the right word and the
almost right word is the difference between lightning =

and the lightning bug" (Mark Twain)

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