Re: Minimal doc

Subject: Re: Minimal doc
From: Steven Jong <SteveFJong -at- AOL -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 23 Dec 1998 08:35:17 EST

Tim Altom wrote:

>> When our Mac burped and died, the
>> manual-cum-brochure was completely useless. I had to resort to (again!) a
>> third-party book and a friend and fellow techwhirler to help. Apple was
>> guilty of not analyzing my needs, but only assuming them.

For the tactical problem, I recommend Ted Landau's excellent _Sad Macs, Bombs,
and Other Disasters, Third Edition_. It paid for itself the first time I found
myself in your shoes.

The strategic problem is as you portray it: a "minimalist" document may be
less than useful in real-world situations. I could name a certain backup
utility that never failed to enrage me when I needed to restore a file. The
design of both software and documentation carefully covered backup, but only
briefly touched on restoration. (Gee, who'd ever want to *restore* a file?)
When I most needed it, I felt left on my own.

There's another issue at work here, I think. Landau's book is 964 pages long,
and on my shelf it's thicker than any volume except _Roget's Thesaurus_ and
_The New York Public Library Desk Reference_, both hardcovers. I'm thinking of
buying a copy of Landau for my brother and his new Mac, but I can just imagine
the look on his face as he says, "I thought you told me Macs were EASY!" If
Apple made a corporate decision that small manuals are less intimidating, what
were the writers to do?

(I am certainly not one to knock Apple; I hasten to point out that the Windows
95 document is less than 100 pages, in a small format. And Microsoft did make
a corporate decision to restrict the size of the entire Windows 95 Help file
to one diskette. The results have misled a generation of Help writers into
believing that it was a writing decision.)

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