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User Guides & Manuals for Apps

This is a discussion on User Guides & Manuals for Apps within the iPad Apps forums, part of the iPad App Store category; What's up with comprehensive user guides/user manuals on apps--do they exist and how do I find them? I've had no luck via search engines. I ...

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  1. #1
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    Question User Guides & Manuals for Apps

    What's up with comprehensive user guides/user manuals on apps--do they exist and how do I find them? I've had no luck via search engines. I know it probably depends on the app and its developer. Let's start with the apps Apple provides built into the iPad.

    I can't be alone in having trouble getting started in using even the built-in apps on my new iPad 3: does Apple not provide a comprehensive user guide for each of the apps they develop or provide that discusses each and every part of the user interface in the app? I have not been able to find such manuals on any of their apps to view online or download.

    For instance, is there a manual that discusses each aspect of the user interface of the Photos app? For example, I see there is a menu at the top of the app containing menu items Photos, Photo Stream, Albums, and Places, along with a Slideshow button (and the regular Share button) to the right. So I'm looking for a manual that tells me what each of these do and how to use them. Perhaps I change a setting and an additional menu item appears: whatever. (Note that I'm not looking for a specific answer at this time on these buttons/menus. That's not what this thread is about.)

    The same goes for every other tiny feature and nuance in the Photos app from a usability point of view. The same goes for every other app Apple makes or provides built-in or sells. The same actually goes for every other app any manufacturer develops. How do I find such user guides in general, if not specifically? Do developers just expect their users to learn how to use the products by trial and error and by reading Tips & Tricks postings online?!

    Pardon me if my search skills just suck and these manuals are out there. But otherwise, I don't understand what has happened to the practice of providing a comprehensive user manual with your software product (heck, any product for that matter). As a computer programmer for 30 years, when I've developed a software product for a client I've always provided a comprehensive user manual (in fact, often both a tutorial-type manual and a reference manual) with it that discusses each and every feature in the product. I have been nothing but frustrated if not livid the last 10-15 years in the lack of such user guides or instruction manuals for most software. As a specialist in usability (friendly user interfaces), I can see how it's one thing to make your software as easy and intuitive to use as possible, minimizing the need for users to have to reference their manuals. But it's another thing to not provide a reference manual at all.

    Please, any help on this issue would be much appreciated.

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  3. #2
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    1. Open the App Store app.

    2. Download iBooks, and launch it.

    3. Tap the Store button, choose Apple as the author, and grab the iPad User Guide.

    milliHelen: amount of beauty required to launch one ship.

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    For third party apps, Apple requires a link to their site and support site in the App Store description. Some, like GoodReader, have a decent online manual. Other's don't. All you can do is fire support emails to the developer asking, or start sending support questions for every question you have. Maybe they'll be inspired to at least supply a FAQ.

    Hold in mind that many developers operate on a shoe string budget, and writing a manual costs money. Contrary to popular perception these people are seldom making buckets of money.

    There are third party iPad books that go into more detail than Apple's iPad User Guide. I find the forum adequate and have not bothered to buy/read any. Personally, I've found the iPad User Guide adequate for most normal questions, and even the most complete manual is usually weak in the tips and tricks category. They always have been. They are written by people who "know" how the app is "supposed" to be used by "typical" users.

    Apple's more complex apps like iMovie, Garage Band, and the iWorks apps all have built in Help options with ok online manuals.

    This is the world of mobile apps. They are smaller, more targeted, cheaper, and more poorly documented than the programs you are used to in the desktop world. They seldom have multi-million dollar budgets to higher professional tech writers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by twerppoet
    They seldom have multi-million dollar budgets to higher professional tech writers.
    Are you dictating your forum posts?

    milliHelen: amount of beauty required to launch one ship.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LannyC View Post
    Are you dictating your forum posts?

    milliHelen: amount of beauty required to launch one ship.
    Not this one. That would be my own no-excuses-for-it mistake.

    Most of my posts come from the iMac. Even though the latest OS X updated does add dictation, I type fast enough on a physical keyboard that dictating wouldn't be much of an advantage. Not when I have to pause for several seconds and compose my thoughts before speaking, before every sentence. I generally type as I think on the computer; which explains my rambling somewhat disjointed posts.

    Though, when typing instructions ,I do (usually) take the time to think them through before pounding away.

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    ...or pounding aweigh...

    milliHelen: amount of beauty required to launch one ship.

  8. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by LannyC View Post
    ...or pounding aweigh...

    milliHelen: amount of beauty required to launch one ship.
    Sometimes that's just the way I sea things.

    (drifting off topic)

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    LannyC, I appreciate your response, but I would have thought my post's composition would have indicated that I was intelligent enough to have already gone to Apple's iPad User Guide as my first source of information. That Guide is highly inadequate for what I'm looking for, and, frankly, for what most people need. It is more a list of some features to get you started rather than a manual on the user interface, and written more by a marketing person rather than a technical writer. But I'll concede that for the casual user (which I suppose are most iPad owners) this is sufficient--though I still maintain they need more. I wish I could be more casual. Unfortunately, my needs force me to learn by trial & error and search all over for disparate sources of fragments of instruction. As a tiny example, if the only manual Apple provides is the iPad User Guide, then shouldn't they merge the Photo Stream FAQ (sorry, the link won't post until my post count > 2) into that manual?

    I'm the kind of guy that reads an entire manual: then I'm confidant that I know the majority about using the product. That's why I posted my question. I was wondering if I was missing something.

    twerppoet, thanks for your answer. I can understand how a lot of third party apps developers are running on a shoestring budget and cannot afford to hire professional manual writers. As a pretty literate programmer, I've always managed writing my own, which also hasn't been hurt by my--like your own--fast typing skills. I guess I just had to get confirmation that I wasn't--as I said above--missing something. But I'm still surprised that Apple would not show better example in the documentation department: they certainly can afford it. But, as you said, the mobile apps world (and to some extent, the entire commercial world) is different today. I appreciate your input though.

  10. #9
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    Apologies, Gary. There are indeed plenty of intelligent, literate iPad owners who don't know there's an official User Guide to be downloaded from within iBooks. Some of them might even be programmers!

    The UG does have a pretty complete explanation of the Photos interface. However, like many modern computer companies, Apple relies more and more on user fora like this one to help newbies with interpretation and details. So ask away, and someone is sure to help almost in real time.

    milliHelen: amount of beauty required to launch one ship.


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