TweetFollow Us on Twitter

March 93 - Editor's Note

EDITOR'S NOTE

CAROLINE ROSE

Dear Readers,

In May of last year, I schmoozed with a lot of developers at Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference, and one of the subjects that came up was documentation. I expressed my ideas on this subject somewhat hesitantly, because I thought the truths I was spouting were all pretty obvious, but I was surprised to find that several developers seemed enlightened by them and even suggested this as a topic for a develop  editorial. So here goes.

But first, some motivation. If you're one of those developers who think no one reads manuals anyway, has it occurred to you that this might be a self-fulfilling prophecy? If manuals were better, maybe people would read them. Also, customers who do  never read the manual will never learn the full power of your product (probably not every  feature is self-explanatory) and will be that much quicker to move on when someone shows them the great things a rival product can do. More likely, people glance at the manual to get started and then thumb through it later when they want to explore certain features.

Also keep in mind that a shoddy manual will be seen as a reflection of the product as a whole: "If this is the best they could do on the manual, how good can their software be?" Don't fool yourself that only writers or editors will criticize a poorly done manual; any reader who has trouble learning from it will complain, and not just to themselves. While there are times when consistency may be the hobgoblin of small minds, it's often the case that inconsistent presentation or terminology will confuse readers and have them throwing your manual down in disgust and thinking your product is more complicated than it really is. And people who do know things like the difference between "its" and "it's" will wonder how well you debugged your code if you couldn't find mistakes like this in your manual. Basically, you won't look like a class act.

I'll state the following points with user documentation in mind, though most of them also apply to technical documentation for developers. Some points may be useful only to small companies, but there should be something here for everyone.

  • Get a technical writer to write your documentation. Don't do it yourself -- and try to talk the CEO or VP of Marketing out of doing it. Contrary to many people's opinions, writing a manual is not something any smart person can do; it's a skill like any other. Most likely you are no more qualified to write the documentation than a writer is qualified to write your code.
  • Look over a relevant writing sample from your prospective writer. Awards, certificates, and years of experience go only so far: nothing will tell you whether you'll get a good manual as much as looking at past work. Ask how the material for the sample was gathered, who else contributed to it, and how heavily it was edited.
  • Get the writer started early in the process -- long before the feature set is frozen. Writers provide a valuable perspective of your product, not unlike that of product management. They'll help with the design of the product, telling you what features don't fit in with other ones and pointing out loopholes, inconsistencies, and other Bad Things. And they're typically excellent bug finders.
  • Have the documentation edited by an editor. Unless they also happen to be editors, writers need their work checked like anyone else -- and an electronic spelling or grammar check (while a good start) isn't enough.
  • Test the result on users, after your product ships if not sooner (you can revise the documentation for the next printing). And don't be defensive: if only one out of ten "testers" turns up a particular problem, it may mean that 10% of your user base will have the same problem. Judge no misunderstanding as stupid; they're all valid, no matter how much you may disagree with them.

I could go on forever, but that's enough for now. Please make my day and let me know if you got anything of value out of this. Or criticize it if you like; I can use the practice in not being defensive.

Caroline Rose Editor


CAROLINE ROSE (AppleLink CROSE) has been writing and editing software documentation since many of you were rug rats. She began at a timesharing company, joined Apple in 1982 to write Inside Macintosh , and helped get NeXT off the ground in 1986. Back at Apple now, she has seven issues of develop  under her belt and is still having a wonderful time. A transplanted New Yorker, Caroline visited the East Coast last October in time to see the leaves turn colors. She enjoyed doing the theater and museum thing in Manhattan and hitting some incredible restaurants and nightclubs -- not to mention a deli whose smoked mozarella is the best this side of Naples. But the highlight was her visit to a friend's farm in Connecticut (sheep feeding beats sheet feeding any day!). Walking to an apple orchard and tasting fresh sweet cider was sheer rural bliss.*

SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION To subscribe to develop , use the subscription card in the back of this issue. Please address all subscription-related inquiries to develop,  Apple Computer, Inc., P.O. Box 531, Mt. Morris, IL 61054 (or AppleLink DEV.SUBS). *

BACK ISSUESFor information about back issues of develop  and how to obtain them, see the last page of this issue. Back issues are also on the Developer CD Series  disc.*

 
AAPL
$106.98
Apple Inc.
-0.36
MSFT
$46.05
Microsoft Corpora
-0.57
GOOG
$550.31
Google Inc.
+0.98

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Sandvox 2.9.2 - Easily build eye-catchin...
Sandvox is for Mac users who want to create a professional looking website quickly and easily. With Sandvox, you don't need to be a Web genius to build a stylish, feature-rich, standards-compliant... Read more
Cocktail 8.0.1 - General maintenance and...
Cocktail is a general purpose utility for OS X that lets you clean, repair and optimize your Mac. It is a powerful digital toolset that helps hundreds of thousands of Mac users around the world get... Read more
LibreOffice 4.3.3.2 - Free Open Source o...
LibreOffice is an office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, drawing tool) compatible with other major office suites. The Document Foundation is coordinating development and... Read more
VMware Fusion 7.0.1 - Run Windows apps a...
VMware Fusion allows you to create a Virtual Machine on your Mac and run Windows (including Windows 8.1) and Windows software on your Mac. Run your favorite Windows applications alongside Mac... Read more
OneNote 15.3.2 - Free digital notebook f...
OneNote is your very own digital notebook. With OneNote, you can capture that flash of genius, that moment of inspiration, or that list of errands that's too important to forget. Whether you're at... Read more
Audio Hijack Pro 2.11.4 - Record and enh...
Audio Hijack Pro drastically changes the way you use audio on your computer, giving you the freedom to listen to audio when you want and how you want. Record and enhance any audio with Audio Hijack... Read more
Iridient Developer 3.0.0 beta 3 - Powerf...
Iridient Developer (was RAW Developer) is a powerful image conversion application designed specifically for OS X. Iridient Developer gives advanced photographers total control over every aspect of... Read more
TextWrangler 4.5.11 - Free general purpo...
TextWrangler is the powerful general purpose text editor, and Unix and server administrator's tool. Oh, and also, like the best things in life, it's free. TextWrangler is the "little brother" to... Read more
NeoFinder 6.6 - Catalog your external me...
NeoFinder (formerly CDFinder) rapidly organizes your data, either on external or internal disks, or any other volumes. It catalogs all your data, so you stay in control of your data archive or disk... Read more
Chromium 38.0.2125.111 - Fast and stable...
Chromium is an open-source browser project that aims to build a safer, faster, and more stable way for all Internet users to experience the web. FreeSMUG-Free OpenSource Mac User Group build is... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Night Sky Pro™ (Reference)
Night Sky Pro™ 3.0.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Reference Price: $2.99, Version: 3.0.1 (iTunes) Description: Night Sky Pro™Wonder No More™ Night Sky Pro™ is the ultimate stargazing experience. From the creators of the original... | Read more »
Audio Defence : Zombie Arena (Games)
Audio Defence : Zombie Arena 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: A zombie shooter audio game. Made from gut-wrenching 3D binaural sound, for a new kind of weird immersion. You... | Read more »
RPG Asdivine Hearts (Games)
RPG Asdivine Hearts 1.1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.1.0 (iTunes) Description: SPECIAL PRICE50% OFF (USD 7.99 -> USD 3.99)!!! Travel alongside four companions and a cat in the adventure of a... | Read more »
Haunt the House: Terrortown (Games)
Haunt the House: Terrortown 1.0.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0.1 (iTunes) Description: 66.6% OFF! SPECIAL SPOOKY HALLOWEEN LAUNCH PRICE! 66.6% OFF! ...What was that sound? Is somebody there? | Read more »
SAS: Zombie Assault 4 Review
SAS: Zombie Assault 4 Review By Jennifer Allen on October 30th, 2014 Our Rating: :: FLAWED SHOOTERUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Shoot everything that moves in this fun, if flawed, twin-stick shooter.   | Read more »
Naailde the Witch Review
Naailde the Witch Review By Amy Solomon on October 30th, 2014 Our Rating: :: PITCH-PERFECT STORYTELLINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Marvelous storytelling, narration, and moving illustrations make this storybook... | Read more »
1st & Goal Review
1st & Goal Review By Andrew Fisher on October 30th, 2014 Our Rating: :: FOR THE D&D LOVING QBUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad 1st & Goal is a board gamer’s football game, a football fan’s board game, and... | Read more »
French Developer Pated Unveils Seashine
French Developer Pated Unveils Seashine Posted by Ellis Spice on October 30th, 2014 [ permalink ] French one-man studio Pated has unveiled Seashine, “a poetic journey into the abyss.” Players take on the role of a jellyfish strugglin | Read more »
Agents of Storm: Tips, Tricks, and Strat...
Calling all agents: Would you like to see what we thought of this rather pretty base builder? Check out our Agents of Storm review! Have you downloaded Agents of Storm, been bowled over by the graphics, and aren’t quite sure what to do next? Never... | Read more »
Any.DO 2.0 Hopes to Help Manage Producti...
Any.DO 2.0 Hopes to Help Manage Productivity Posted by Ellis Spice on October 30th, 2014 [ permalink ] iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple Regains Momentum As Windows Stutters An...
The latest smartphone sales data from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, for the three months to March 2014, shows Apple performing strongly in the first quarter of the year, with sales bouncing back in... Read more
Worldwide Smartphone Shipments Increase 25.2%...
New smartphone releases and an increased emphasis on emerging markets drove global smartphone shipments above 300 million units for the second consecutive quarter, according to preliminary data from... Read more
Apple now offering refurbished 2014 15-inch M...
The Apple Store is now offering Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 15″ Retina MacBook Pros for up to $400 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and... Read more
Apple drops prices on refurbished 2013 Retina...
The Apple Store has dropped prices on 2013 Apple Certified Refurbished 13″ and 15″ Retina MacBook Pros, with Retina models now available starting at $999. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and... Read more
New 2.8GHz Mac mini on sale for $949, save $5...
Abt Electronics has the new 2.8GHz Mac mini in stock and on sale for $949.05 including free shipping. Their price is $50 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model from any reseller... Read more
Sale! 3.7GHz Quad Core Mac Pro available for...
 B&H Photo has the 3.7GHz Quad Core Mac Pro on sale for $2649 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $350 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price for this model from any... Read more
Mujjo Steps Up The Game With Refined Touchscr...
Netherlands based Mujjo have just launched their Refined Touchscreen Gloves, stepping up their game. The gloves feature a updated elegant design that takes these knitted gloves to the next level. A... Read more
Sale! Preorder the new 27-inch 5K iMac for $2...
 Abt Electronics has the new 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale and available for preorder for $2374.05 including free shipping. Their price is $125 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this... Read more
Simplex Solutions Inc. Brings Secure Web Surf...
New York based Simplex Solutions Inc. has announced the release and immediate availability of Private Browser 1.0, its revolutionary new secure web browser developed for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch... Read more
Save up to $180 off MSRP with an Apple refurb...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 MacBook Airs available for up to $180 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is free.... Read more

Jobs Board

Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
**Job Summary** Every day, business customers come to the Apple Store to discover what powerful, easy-to-use Apple products can do for them. As a Business Leader, Read more
Sr. Manager, *Apple* Deployment Programs fo...
**Job Summary** Apple is seeking candidates for a new position on the Education Content and Technology team. iPad and Mac is in the hands of millions of teachers and Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple I...
…important role that the ASC serves is that of providing an excellent Apple Customer Experience. Responsibilities include: * Promoting Apple products and solutions Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple I...
…important role that the ASC serves is that of providing an excellent Apple Customer Experience. Responsibilities include: * Promoting Apple products and solutions Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple I...
…important role that the ASC serves is that of providing an excellent Apple Customer Experience. Responsibilities include: * Promoting Apple products and solutions Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.