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Help! I need some simple tips for designing a manual set.
I'm the only/first technical writer for a small software company
that provides C language library routines for application developers.
I just started this job a few weeks ago.
For the past 12 years, I was not involved in design decisions for
technical manuals. I was in a large (40 person) publications
department, and I avoided the endless and bloody discussions about
manual style. Mine was not to wonder why, mine was just to do or
die (not that I didn't have opinions, mind you.)
Now, I find myself short of time (what a surprise!) and needing an
immediate new look for the heretofore programmer-written manuals.
(We also produce installation notes and a few other small documents.)
They're highly technical documents for programmers, but they could
really use some sprucing up. My manager merely says to make them
What I'm looking for is a book or list of Design 101 tips, like a
one-day class on the subject, so I don't have to spend too much
time researching the details. (I will refine and improve the design
gradually, over the next year.) Basically, I want a summary of the
things we all develop a feel for over time, like the "best" point size,
good fonts for legibility, rules of thumb for white space, headers
(run-in VS separate columns, etc, etc, etc. I would especially
like to know the latest trends and research, all in an easy-to-skim,
list-oriented, exhaustively indexed format. Something like a
"Dummy's Guide to Manual Design".
Am I dreaming?
Anne Chenette Senior Technical Writer XOX Corporation
anne -at- xox -dot- com 1450 Energy Park Drive http://www.wavefront.com/~anne/ St. Paul, MN 55108
The Web Server Handbook: http://www.prenhall.com/~palmer/
Standard Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this message are mine
and mine alone. XOX Corporation had nothing to do with them.