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Using Documentation

The Self Help Solution

 

Many of you, who are familiar with technical manuals and help files, can skip this page entirely.  However, if you're feeling a bit lost, read on.

We always recommend that you get each product's documentation, and read and understand it.  This is easily said and, taken at face value, it is all you usually need to do; yet we realize that some of you may be daunted by past experience.

Computer related documentation of the past often wasn't very useful to the layman.  As we've said elsewhere, you can use the computer, and use it well, without needing to know how to build one.

Modern documentation has improved with the products.  Paper manuals have more cross indexing, Tables of Contents are more meaningful, and Index listings are much more detailed.  Best of all, many products now have no paper manuals at all!  Huh?

Restated:  best of all, these products now have help files, stored on your computer, on the installation disk, or at the manufacturer's website.  In addition, many manufacturers offer live help by phone or internet messaging.

To access help for some applications:  click Start, point to Programs, then hover the mouse pointer through the cascading menu until you find the program's help shortcut.

For other applications:  open the program by double clicking its icon, then look for a button on the toolbar (or elsewhere) which has a label such as About, Documentation, Guide, Help, How To, Information, Manual, Quick Start, Tour, Tutorial, or simply a question mark ("?").

The advantage of help files is that they usually contain loads of clickable shortcuts to points of interest and "Related Topics", as well as the ability to search the entire document for keywords.  Often, the elements in the Table of Contents and the Index are clickable shortcuts.

The value of Related Topics is that you aren't necessarily required to know precisely what you are looking for.  Unless you're trying to master a subject or find something really obscure, it is no longer a rule that you must read the book from beginning to end.

We do recommend that you at least read through overview and summary information to get the general concepts, and pay attention to any notices and warnings.  If you are installing, removing, or configuring hardware or software, it is important that you follow the documented procedures exactly.

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In general documentation, quotes are often used as delimiters to enclose items such as new terms and specific phrases, commands, and the names of objects such as folders and files.  When executing these commands or assigning names to folders and files, do not include the quotes.

In documentation about using programs, the steps needed to perform tasks are often written in a kind of "shorthand".  For example, we could write:

"Click the Start button, then hover the on-screen mouse pointer over Programs, then Accessories, then System Tools, and then click Windows Explorer",

or we could write its shorthand equivalent:

"Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Windows Explorer",

where each item is something unique which appears as a result of clicking or moving through the previous item.

When reading long pages which exceed the window height, a "wheel" mouse is a real help.  If present, a rotating wheel is normally positioned between the large left- and right-hand mouse buttons (or the middle of the MAC's Cyclops mouse).

Simply click an empty area in the page to give "focus" to that page, then rotate the mouse wheel to scroll up or down.  You can change the scrolling increment in the Mouse control panel.

If the mouse wheel also clicks (and depending on the viewing program), an initial mouse wheel click (inside the page) turns on automatic scrolling, identified by a special floating symbol and matching mouse pointer.  Moving the mouse up or down scrolls the page.  The scrolling speed varies with the vertical distance between the floating symbol and mouse pointer.  Click again to turn this off.

If you don't find what you need in the paper manual or help files, look for the manufacturer's website address, such as "www.somewhere.com", and type it into the address bar in your Internet browser and click the Go or arrow button, or click its link in the help file.  If you typed the address but the website doesn't appear, try adding "http://" so the address looks like "http://www.somewhere.com".

Don't forget that Windows has a large built in help and troubleshooting library.  Click Start, then click Help and Support on the start menu.  Also, Windows applications have a Help button on the toolbar.  Frequently, applications provide "tool tips" which appear when you hover the mouse pointer over a button or field in the program's window.

Contact us for personal guidance, and check out the large Internet libraries (among many) of help and support information at Microsoft.com, The Secret Guide To Computers, and Apple.com.


now reading: Using Documentation - The Self Help Solution
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