Re: Recognition at last!

Subject: Re: Recognition at last!
From: "Eric J. Ray" <ejray -at- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 5 Nov 1996 07:05:58 PST

Er. Well. Great in principle. Yes, but...

The Microsoft Getting Results manual is distributed as the user?s
manual, but takes a rather unconventional and sparse
approach to documenting the software.

The authors state that their job is to "provide a map"
to help the readers complete their tasks efficiently.
They explicitly refer readers to the "online user
assistance system" for details about using the product.
Then, they list additional sources for information,
from the Microsoft Network to the Internet to a list
of Microsoft Press Publications to provide detailed

If I bought Office and actually expected usable hardcopy
documentation, I'd be steamed. From my perspective,
the Getting Results book is an expanded outline of
functional user tasks (so far, so good), with minimal
and vague actual content (not so good). Heck, anyone with
experience using word processors and a decent
requirements document could write the Getting
Results book for Word without seeing the software.

From page 103 -- where I opened the book. "What to
do first" for creating a newsletter. In brief,
it tells to use Search and Replace to change
formatting, or to attach a template for extensive
changes. (No explanation of templates or styles.)
General info about converting files and how to
count words.
The margin notes tell users to use online
help to look up: file formats, templates,
styles, finding formatting.
Additionally, for help on dialog box options,
users are encouraged to click the ? button.

Come on! I think that's too sketchy
for beginners and unusable (too remedial) for
more advanced users.

Studies of user input and usability for the Word for
Windows 95 documentation should prove enlightening. If
usability studies and user opinion validate this approach,
technical communicators everywhere should be able to
dramatically cut their own development costs, shift the
burden of obtaining documentation to the customer, and
ensure a continuing revenue stream for the company by
producing their own third-party documentation.


Eric J. Ray ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com
TECHWR-L Listowner

--- On Tue, 5 Nov 1996 09:11:26 +0200 Joan Michaeli <joan -at- RTS -dot- CO -dot- IL> wrote:

>The Introduction to "Getting Results with Microsoft Office for Windows 95"
>(the only manual you get when you purchase Office) includes the following:
>"Historically, we've focused on documenting our products - that is,
>explaining how they work, often in intricate detail.'ve told us that
>your primary focus is on getting your work done, not learning our products!
>...we also thought about makers of other types of products and how they
>provide assistance to their users.
>Sounds familiar? One of the first lessons in any tech. writing course
>emphasizes these points. Do you think that Microsoft actually listened to
>their tech. writers? Has the tech. writing business achieved respectability?
>I see that they've also added a Credits page and have included the tech.
>writers. As I said, recognition at last.
>Joan Michaeli
>Technical Writer
>RTS International

-----------------End of Original Message-----------------

Eric J. Ray ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com
TECHWR-L Listowner

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