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.*

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Macs Fan Control 1.5.0.0 - Monitor and c...
Macs Fan Control allows you to monitor and control almost any aspect of your computer's fans, with support for controlling fan speed, temperature sensors pane, menu-bar icon, and autostart with... Read more
Daylite 6.7.7 - Dynamic business organiz...
Daylite helps businesses organize themselves with tools such as shared calendars, contacts, tasks, projects, notes, and more. Enable easy collaboration with features such as task and project... Read more
OpenOffice 4.1.7 - Free and open-source...
OpenOffice.org is both an Open Source product and a project. The product is a multi-platform office productivity suite. It includes the key desktop applications, such as a word processor, spreadsheet... Read more
Backup and Sync 3.46 - File backup and s...
Backup and Sync (was Google Drive) is a place where you can create, share, collaborate, and keep all of your stuff. Whether you're working with a friend on a joint research project, planning a... Read more
iClock 5.5 - Customizable menu bar clock...
iClock replaces the old Apple's default menu bar clock with more features, customization and increases your productivity. Features: Have your Apple or Google calendar instantly available from the... Read more
Garmin Express 6.18.0.0 - Manage your Ga...
Garmin Express is your essential tool for managing your Garmin devices. Update maps, golf courses and device software. You can even register your device. Update maps Update software Register your... Read more
MarsEdit 4.3.5 - Quick and convenient bl...
MarsEdit is a blog editor for OS X that makes editing your blog like writing email, with spell-checking, drafts, multiple windows, and even AppleScript support. It works with with most blog services... Read more
Xcode 11.0 - Integrated development envi...
Xcode includes everything developers need to create great applications for Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Xcode provides developers a unified workflow for user interface design, coding, testing... Read more
DaisyDisk 4.8 - $9.99
DaisyDisk allows you to visualize your disk usage and free up disk space by quickly finding and deleting big unused files. The program scans your disk and displays its content as a sector diagram... Read more
VMware Fusion 11.5.0 - Run Windows apps...
VMware Fusion and Fusion Pro - virtualization software for running Windows, Linux, and other systems on a Mac without rebooting. The latest version includes full support for Windows 10, macOS Mojave... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Marvel Strike Force is adding Agent Coul...
Marvel Strike Force, the popular squad-based RPG, is set to receive a bunch of new content over the next few weeks. [Read more] | Read more »
Lots of premium games are going free (so...
You may have seen over the past couple weeks a that a bunch of premium games have suddenly become free. This isn’t a mistake, nor is it some last hurrah before Apple Arcade hits, and it’s important to know that these games aren’t actually becoming... | Read more »
Yoozoo Games launches Saint Seiya Awaken...
If you’re into your anime, you’ve probably seen or heard of Saint Seiya. Based on a shonen manga by Masami Kurumada, the series was massively popular in the 1980s – especially in its native Japan. Since then, it’s grown into a franchise of all... | Read more »
Five Nights at Freddy's AR: Special...
Five Nights at Freddy's AR: Special Delivery is a terrifying new nightmare from developer Illumix. Last week, FNAF fans were sent into a frenzy by a short teaser for what we now know to be Special Delivery. Those in the comments were quick to... | Read more »
Rush Rally 3's new live events are...
Last week, Rush Rally 3 got updated with live events, and it’s one of the best things to happen to racing games on mobile. Prior to this update, the game already had multiplayer, but live events are more convenient in the sense that it’s somewhat... | Read more »
Why your free-to-play racer sucks
It’s been this way for a while now, but playing Hot Wheels Infinite Loop really highlights a big issue with free-to-play mobile racing games: They suck. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying going for realism, cart racing, or arcade nonsense, they’re... | Read more »
Steam Link Spotlight - The Banner Saga 3
Steam Link Spotlight is a new feature where we take a look at PC games that play exceptionally well using the Steam Link app. Our last entry talked about Terry Cavanaugh’s incredible Dicey Dungeons. Read about how it’s a great mobile experience... | Read more »
Combo Quest (Games)
Combo Quest 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Combo Quest is an epic, time tap role-playing adventure. In this unique masterpiece, you are a knight on a heroic quest to retrieve... | Read more »
Hero Emblems (Games)
Hero Emblems 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: ** 25% OFF for a limited time to celebrate the release ** ** Note for iPhone 6 user: If it doesn't run fullscreen on your device... | Read more »
Puzzle Blitz (Games)
Puzzle Blitz 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Puzzle Blitz is a frantic puzzle solving race against the clock! Solve as many puzzles as you can, before time runs out! You have... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

2019 iMacs available for up to $350 off MSRP,...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2019 21″ & 27″ iMacs now available starting at $929 and up to $350 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, shipping is free, and each... Read more
Get a clearance 2018 13″ 2.3GHz Quad-Core Tou...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2018 13″ 2.3GHz 4-Core Touch Bar MacBook Pros available starting at $1489. Apple’s one-year warranty is included, shipping is free, and each MacBook has a new outer... Read more
11″ WiFi iPad Pros on sale today for up to $2...
Amazon has new 2018 Apple 11″ WiFi iPad Pros in stock today and on sale for up to $200 off Apple’s MSRP. These are the same iPad Pros sold by Apple in its retail and online stores. Be sure to select... Read more
Select 12″ iPad Pros on sale for $200 off App...
Amazon has select 2018 Apple 12″ iPad Pros in stock today and on sale for $200 off Apple’s MSRP. These are the same iPad Pros sold by Apple in its retail and online stores. Be sure to select Amazon... Read more
Get one of Apple’s new 2019 iPhone 11 models...
Boost Mobile is offering the new 2019 Apple iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max for $100 off MSRP. Their discount reduces the cost of an iPhone 11 to $599 for the 64GB models, $899 for the 64GB... Read more
13″ 1.4GHz Silver MacBook Pros on sale for $1...
B&H Photo has new 2019 13″ 1.4GHz 4-Core Touch Bar Silver MacBook Pros on sale for $100 off Apple’s MSRP. Overnight shipping is free to many addresses in the US. These are the same MacBook Pros... Read more
4-core and 6-core 2018 Mac minis available at...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2018 Mac minis available on their online store for $120-$170 off the cost of new models. Each mini comes with a new outer case plus a standard Apple one-year warranty... Read more
$250 prepaid Visa card with any Apple iPhone,...
Xfinity Mobile will include a free $250 prepaid Visa card with the purchase of any new iPhone, new line activation, and transfer of phone number to Xfinity Mobile. Offer is valid through October 27,... Read more
Sprint is offering the 64GB Apple iPhone 11 P...
Sprint has the new 64GB iPhone 11 Pro available for $12.50 per month for new customers with an eligible trade-in in of iPhone 7 or newer. That’s down from their standard monthly lease of $41.67. The... Read more
Final week: Apple’s 2019 Back to School Promo...
Purchase a new Mac using Apple’s Education discount, and take up to $400 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution with a .edu email address qualify for the discount... Read more

Jobs Board

Best Buy *Apple* Computing Master - Best Bu...
**734646BR** **Job Title:** Best Buy Apple Computing Master **Job Category:** Store Associates **Location Number:** 001220-Issaquah-Store **Job Description:** The Read more
Best Buy *Apple* Computing Master - Best Bu...
**734517BR** **Job Title:** Best Buy Apple Computing Master **Job Category:** Sales **Location Number:** 000685-El Camino Real-Store **Job Description:** **What does Read more
*Apple* Mobility Pro - Best Buy (United Stat...
**734830BR** **Job Title:** Apple Mobility Pro **Job Category:** Store Associates **Location Number:** 000423-West Broad-Store **Job Description:** At Best Buy, our Read more
Systems Analyst ( *Apple* & Android) (Jo...
Systems Analyst ( Apple & Android) (Job ID: 572513) + 11751 Meadowville Ln, Chester, VA 23836, USA + Full-time Company Description Computer Consultants International, Read more
*Apple* Mobile App Developer - eiWorkflow So...
…eiWorkflow Solutions, LLC is currently looking for a consultant for the following role. Apple Mobile App Developer Tasks the role will be performing: ? Mobile App Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.