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
$102.99
Apple Inc.
+0.52
MSFT
$44.38
Microsoft Corpora
-0.50
GOOG
$532.71
Google Inc.
+6.17

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

OmniOutliner 4.1.3 - Organize your ideas...
OmniOutliner is a flexible program for creating, collecting, and organizing information. Give your creativity a kick start by using an application that's actually designed to help you think. It's... Read more
BBEdit 11.0 - Powerful text and HTML edi...
BBEdit is the leading professional HTML and text editor for the Mac. Specifically crafted in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers, this award-winning product provides a... Read more
Apple Security Update 2014-005 - For OS...
Apple Security Update is recommended for all users and improves the security of Mac OS X. For information on the security content of this update, please visit this website: http://support.apple.com/... Read more
EyeTV 3.6.6 - Watch and record TV on you...
EyeTV brings a rich TV experience to your Mac. Watch live TV on your Mac. Pause, rewind, and record whenever you want. EyeTV gives you powerful control over what you watch and how you watch it. Put... Read more
RapidWeaver 6.0 - Create template-based...
RapidWeaver is a next-generation Web design application to help you easily create professional-looking Web sites in minutes. No knowledge of complex code is required, RapidWeaver will take care of... Read more
NTFS 12.0.39 - Provides full read and wr...
Paragon NTFS breaks down the barriers between Windows and OS X. Paragon NTFS effectively solves the communication problems between the Mac system and NTFS, providing full read and write access to... Read more
RestoreMeNot 2.0.3 - Disable window rest...
RestoreMeNot provides a simple way to disable the window restoration for individual applications so that you can fine-tune this behavior to suit your needs. Please note that RestoreMeNot is designed... Read more
Command-C 1.1.5 - Clipboard sharing tool...
Command-C is a revolutionary app which makes easy to share your clipboard between iOS and OS X using your local WiFi network, even if the app is not currently opened. Copy anything (text, pictures,... Read more
Macgo Blu-ray Player 2.10.9.1750 - Blu-r...
Macgo Mac Blu-ray Player can bring you the most unforgettable Blu-ray experience on your Mac. Overview Macgo Mac Blu-ray Player can satisfy just about every need you could possibly have in a Blu-ray... Read more
Apple iOS 8.1 - The latest version of Ap...
The latest version of iOS can be downloaded through iTunes. Apple iOS 8 comes with big updates to apps you use every day, like Messages and Photos. A whole new way to share content with your family.... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Fighting Fantasy: Caverns of the Snow Wi...
Fighting Fantasy: Caverns of the Snow Witch 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $5.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Travel to Northern Allansia’s perilous Icefinger Mountains to defeat the wicked Snow Witch in this... | Read more »
TinType by Hipstamatic (Photography)
TinType by Hipstamatic 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Photography Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Create hauntingly beautiful, soul capturing portraits with TinType by Hipstamatic. Inspired by daguerreotypes,... | Read more »
The Latest Update for Heroes of Dragon A...
The Latest Update for Heroes of Dragon Age Introduces Daily PvE Challenges Posted by Ellis Spice on October 22nd, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
A New Trailer has Been Revealed for Epic...
A New Trailer has Been Revealed for Epic of Kings Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 22nd, 2014 [ permalink ] Dead Mage Inc. has released a new, action-packed trailer for the upcoming Epic of Kings. | Read more »
Find the Line Review
Find the Line Review By Campbell Bird on October 22nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: INSLIDE THE LINESUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Tease out beautiful line drawings in this unique, free-to-play puzzle game.   | Read more »
The Silent Age Episode 2 Review
The Silent Age Episode 2 Review By Jennifer Allen on October 22nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: ROUNDING THINGS OFF NICELYUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Rounding off a great point and click adventure comes The Silent Age... | Read more »
Craft Your Own Mini-Games with Papercade
Craft Your Own Mini-Games with Papercade Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 22nd, 2014 [ permalink ] iPad Only App - Designed for the iPad Scrapbookers move over, Scrapgaming is the new thing. | Read more »
Reshape Review
Reshape Review By Jennifer Allen on October 22nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: SIMPLE SHAPESUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Match triangles together to form cubes in this fast-paced and twitchy game.   | Read more »
Miika (Games)
Miika 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Miika is a beautiful 3D puzzle game based on camera perspectives combined with the use of optical illusions. Miika challenges... | Read more »
Infuse Pro (Photography)
Infuse Pro 3.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Photography Price: $9.99, Version: 3.0 (iTunes) Description: ** All-new version 3 includes fully licensed and certified DTS® and DTS-HD® audio! ** | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Save with Best Buy’s College Student Deals
Take an additional $50 off all MacBooks and iMacs at Best Buy Online with their College Students Deals Savings, valid through November 1st. Anyone with a valid .EDU email address can take advantage... Read more
iPad Air 2 & iPad mini 3 Best Tablets Yet...
The new iPads turned out to be pretty much everything I’d been hoping for and more than I’d expected.”More” particularly in terms of a drinking-from-a-firehose choice of models and configurations,... Read more
Drafts 4 Reinvents iOS Productivity App
N Richland Hills, Texas based Agile Tortoise has announced the release of Drafts 4 for iPhone and iPad. Drafts is a quick capture note taking app with flexible output actions. Drafts 4 scales from... Read more
AT&T accepting preorders for new iPads fo...
AT&T Wireless is accepting preorders for the new iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, cellular models, for $100 off MSRP with a 2-year service agreement: - 16GB iPad Air 2 WiFi + Cellular: $529.99 - 64GB... Read more
Apple offering refurbished Mac Pros for up to...
The Apple Store is offering Apple Certified Refurbished 2013 Mac Pros for up to $600 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each Mac Pro, and shipping is free. The... Read more
Select MacBook Airs $100 off MSRP, free shipp...
B&H Photo has 2014 a couple of MacBook Airs on sale for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only. They also include free copies of Parallels Desktop and LoJack for... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $100 o...
B&H Photo has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $999.99 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more
Strong iPhone, Mac And App Store Sales Drive...
Apple on Monday announced financial results for its fiscal 2014 fourth quarter ended September 27, 2014. The Company posted quarterly revenue of $42.1 billion and quarterly net profit of $8.5 billion... Read more
Apple Posts How-To For OS X Recovery
OS X 10.7 Lion and later include OS X Recovery. This feature includes all of the tools you need to reinstall OS X, repair your disk, and even restore from a Time Machine backup. OS X Recovery... Read more
Mac OS X Versions (Builds) Supported By Vario...
Apple Support has posted a handy resource explaining which Mac OS X versions (builds) originally shipped with or are available for your computer via retail discs, downloads, or Software Update. Apple... Read more

Jobs Board

Senior Event Manager, *Apple* Retail Market...
…This senior level position is responsible for leading and imagining the Apple Retail Team's global event strategy. Delivering an overarching brand story; in-store, Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
Project Manager / Business Analyst, WW *Appl...
…a senior project manager / business analyst to work within our Worldwide Apple Fulfillment Operations and the Business Process Re-engineering team. This role will work Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
…customers purchase our products, you're the one who helps them get more out of their new Apple technology. Your day in the Apple Store is filled with a range of Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.