User Guides vs. Training Manuals (was Re: Can anyone tell me...)

Subject: User Guides vs. Training Manuals (was Re: Can anyone tell me...)
From: Michele Marques <mmarques -at- CMS400 -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 22 Mar 1999 09:39:24 -0500

Sean Olson <rootcellar -at- EARTHLINK -dot- NET> writes:
> Can anyone tell me the difference between a user manual and a training manual?

I have written both. Although a well written training manual should be able to
serve as a reference after the course, and a well writen user manual may be
used for self-study training, they are different, due to their different purposes.

One person has already remarked that a user manual will include installation
instructions and [more] trouble-shooting than a training manual.

I write the two types of documents differently. In a training manual, I am
primarily trying to instruct a user who has never completed a particular task
(and sometimes a user who is completely new to the program). In a user guide,
I include enough information/instruction for the novice user, but also organize
the information so that the experienced user can quickly pinpoint the
information he wants to look up.

When there are many ways to complete a task, in a training manual I will cover
one method and may provide one alternative; in a user manual I will present all
possible methods.

In a training manual, the same information may be repeated multiple times. For
example, I may provide a screenshot with detailed information of the fields,
include a step-by-step exercise where I provide much instruction on how to
complete a task, and include a more general exercise in which multiple tasks
are to be completed (without step-by-step instructions). In a user manual for
the same screen/instructions I would provide the information only once (or
twice, if you think of the screenshot as separate).

Additionally, a training manual may be organized differently than a user guide.
For example, if a particular product is used differently by different groups of
users, the user guide may be geared primarily at one group or may be general
enough for both groups; if there are different methods for teaching the different
groups, then they may receive different training manuals. For example,
Accounting and Sales may both want to update customer records, but have
different purposes; training for each would include a different sub-set of updating
customer records, while the user-guide provides all aspects of updating
customer records.

Michele Marques
Technical Writer, CMS Manufacturing
mmarques -at- cms400 -dot- com
905-477-4499 x280

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