Re: Why We Need Good Software Manuals

Subject: Re: Why We Need Good Software Manuals
From: Krista Van Laan <kvanlaan -at- UNDA -dot- FI>
Date: Tue, 30 Jan 1996 11:11:39 +0200

Mike Huber says:

> I was out at a training class (not about writing - I was the only
> writer there) and the guy at the next desk, out of the blue, started
> complaining about Microsoft manuals that have exactly the same
> information (down to the examples) as the help screens.

> In my experience, readers (except for the odd ones who read the
> manual before jumping into the software) have already searched the
> help by the time they open the manual. The reader wants
> something more, or at least a different angle. Basically, when the
> manual is open, the help has failed. Your coordinates are wrong -
> do not fire again.

It seems unrealistic to expect a writer to not only produce a
user's guide (which should be comprehensive), but then to come up with
a new twist for on-line help.

Many (if not most) of our customers do not get the manuals,
either because our company is late with the printing,
or because they are beta customers and for some unknown reason not
expected to need them, or because the customer bought multiple licenses
and only one set of manuals. I put the user's guides on line,
word for word the same as the printed manuals.

As someone else pointed out, a company frequently buys the software
licenses but not enough manuals. In a situation like that, I think
it's great to have the manuals on line.

I also offer some not-very-extensive help screens, and they refer the
customer to the on-line documentation for more information.

I'd be annoyed if I searched the manuals for information, couldn't find
it, and then found it in on-line help. But that's unlikely to happen,
since I haven't found much on-line help that was easy to use or
comprehensive. :^)

Krista Van Laan
kvl -at- unda -dot- fi

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