Re: Microsoft Press

Subject: Re: Microsoft Press
From: Elna Tymes <etymes -at- LTS -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 10 Jul 1996 14:32:16 -0700

Beryl Doane wrote:

> The user guides, technical references, and so on are on a different
> schedule, with different priorites. The User Education books have to meet
> the ship date, have to document every feature (no matter how obscure,
> complicated, or powerful), and have to aim at all users (lowest common
> denominator).

> Press and third party
> books don't have to meet the scheduled release date, don't have to bow (as
> much) to internal politics at MS, don't have to fit the same rigid corporate
> style, tone, and organizational guidelines, and don't have to document
> everything while everything is changing.

As the (former) writer of a large bunch of after-market books, I concur.
The purposes of manuals for a product and after-market books about the
same product are different. Manuals tend to support the credibility of a
product; after-market books are written for real users who have been put
off by previous experiences with manuals. Manuals are supposed to
completely document all of the software's features, however inane.
After-market books focus on helping a user become productive on a much
smaller set of features. After-market books can also add graphics and
other user aids that the engineers and programmers who review manuals
usually consider demeaning. Manuals have to pass the critical judgment
of people who culture and bake the software and hence have a set of
biases about what's important to know; after-market books have to pass
the "flip test" of someone who's shelling out his/her own money on the
basis of what looks like it might be useful to that particular user.

Elna Tymes
Los Trancos Systems

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