Re: Why We Need Good Software Manuals

Subject: Re: Why We Need Good Software Manuals
From: Anne Weiler <annew -at- CHANCERY -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 24 Jan 1996 10:14:53 -0700

I think we need to realize that people learn in different ways. I'm a
technical writer who doesn't read manuals before I get started. Generally
I have some idea of what the software will do before I start, so I dive in
and start fooling around. When I get stuck I go to the help or manual. My
co-worker, also a tech writer, always reads the manual from front to back
before starting anything. For her, a well organized manual does the trick;
for me, it's well organized, complete, and well-indexed online help.

Recently I downloaded "Spider" (an HTML editor from the 'net). The online
help isn't complete, but they have an online manual that's supposed to be
complete. I get extremely frustrated when I look something up in the help,
find the topic, access the dialog, and continue reading the help to find
out that the rest of the procedure is not in the help, it's in the manual.
I'm one of those users who like my information immediately.


PS I'm the Frame expert around here, and my coworkers (even the ones who
read manuals) come to me first before looking in the manual. I think it's
just human nature.

oops. Too many snips
Kent said:

> I know many tech writers who fail to read the documentation for the
> software they use to produce their documentation. When we switched from
> Word to Frame, I took the Frame manual home and read it cover to cover.
<small snip>
> When they have a question, instead of looking in the
> manual, they seek me out for an answer. I have become the *de facto*
> expert on the system (even though I fought the switch to Frame).

> 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.

Anne Weiler
Media Development
Chancery Software
(604) 294-1233

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