Re: Reading the Manuals (Was Macs vs PCs)

Subject: Re: Reading the Manuals (Was Macs vs PCs)
From: Robert Plamondon <robert -at- PLAMONDON -dot- COM>
Date: Sat, 15 Apr 1995 08:53:06 PDT

>But Robert, this is precisely the point. My computer is a tool, with which
>I accomplish my work. Don't want to slog through days/weeks/months --
>learning <how> to use it!

>Nor is it necessary: I have never needed to read any of my MAC manuals
>(FrameMaker, Interleaf, etc., manuals, of course, read/study) & have used a
>range of MACs. A famous big-wig (will ask permission to use his name if you
>like) at MIT's Media Lab says he prefers the MAC because it operates the way
>he thinks...intuitively.)

Setting aside the question of why we're all busting a gut to write
quality documentation when many of us take pride in never reading any,
I must admit that most people I've worked at feel the same way.

For example, I have yet to find ANYONE besides me who has ever even
noticed Microsoft Word's "Style Sheet" feature. Nor do they understand
automatic numbering. Many indent paragraphs by typing three or five
spaces, and even center lines by spacing to the middle of the page.
They use whatever the default font is, exclusively.

They usually don't pay enough attention to realize that the small
cadre of skilled users can write, format, and illustrate ten pages
to their one (and I do NOT exaggerate), with results that are infinitely
more professional, maintainable, and transportable.

But people who don't read the manuals, like self-taught people everywhere,
don't know what they don't know. (You see this phenomenon a lot in
technical subjects that the engineers covered in school, but the
technicians and tech writers didn't. Gaping holes in training that
are incompletely papered over by randomly aquired rules of thumb and
coping skills. Sometimes it works brilliantly, sometimes it fails
at exactly the wrong time.)

But, in any event, I'm always struck by the dissonance of a technical
writer who is proud of not reading manuals.

-- Robert
Robert Plamondon * Writer * robert -at- plamondon -dot- com * (408) 321-8771
4271 North First Street, #106 * San Jose * California * 95134-1215
"Writing is like plumbing -- even people who know how to do it will
pay top dollar to keep their hands clean."

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