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Since computer terminology can often be one of the biggest stumbling blocks to understanding the world of personal computers,I've tried to make things a bit easier by defining new terms at the beginning of the chapter in they first appear

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Befuddling World oF Reference Manuals

While some software products are getting easier to handle, the manuals that accompany them are not keeping pace. User surly is frequently used to describe most reference works. Dense prose, poor use of English, and unexplained jargon are only some of the things that people encounter in the world of computer manuals. Some manuals neglect to include crucial information about the program, while others give incorrect instructions. Some use terms, such as “terminal,”“screen,”“ monitor,” and “display,” interchangeably without ever defining them.
Why are instructional manuals written so poorly? Among many reasons, three stand out:
1. Reference manuals are the last priority in the development process for hardware or software.
2. The manuals are often written by the engineers or technicians who designed the system or package.
3. Program or design changes often continue right up to the moment the product is released.
In the dog eat dog world of computers and software the bottom line is often getting to the marketplace first, or, failing that, getting there with a product that does more. The emphasis for the developers is on programming the product to do what they want it to and not necessarily on how easy it is for the consumer to figure out. For these reasons, seven or eight months might be How simple are the explanations and directions for reaching a specific goal? Are the vocabulary and sentence structure easy to follow? Is the use of terms consistent? Are all terms defined up front, and do the authors stick to the definitions? Is everything organized in a way that makes sense? Is there an explanation of what the product does and information on standard operations? Do the instructions follow the same steps a person using the program would? If illustrations are used, do they make sense and are they clearly labeled and relevant to their location in a manual? If special symbols are used in the program, are they clearly explained and consistently followed? Is there a complete table of contents and a thorough index? There’s no doubt that fear, from any of its many sources, can have a major impact on people’s use of personal computers. That fear can be overcome, however, with well planned strategies to introduce and train people on the systems. For those who believe that is sometimes an impossible task, consider the following quote:
I don’t see much use for these things in the majority of our lives. They will be too expensive for some, and too frightening for others. This is clearly an invention that is beyond the understanding and need of most common people. The year was 1905 and the writer, a newspaper columnist for the New York Herald, was describing the telephone.

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