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Tue, May. 31st, 2005, 10:29 pm
symmys: Are manuals stupid?

A while ago I tried to start writing a manual for my GNOME-based app, Gourmet, but never finished.

This weekend, I was doing some sophisticated usability studies (e.g. making my parents try my program), when my father suggested there should be some “help” to explain the way Gourmet’s shopping list worked. It occurred to me that of course there should be, and that this was actually quite a trivial thing to write documentation for, but that I hadn’t gotten to it because I’d been following the GNOME documentation project’s templates and tried to write a basic manual, moving through everything my app could do.

The thing that I realized then, was that this was foolish. If it was tedious for me to write, it would be tedious for the vast majority of users to read. More importantly — the important information would get lost in the thicket of generic instructions.

To the extent that my application is like other good applications, no manual is necessary. Want a new recipe? Click on “New recipe” in the “File” menu.

What users need, is something quick and dirty for the occasional non-obvious feature (non-obvious features don’th ave to be bad features — they’re actually some of my favorites, they just take a second to explain).

The idea of having a confused user look to the “Help” menu and bring up a link to clunky old Yelp with a template-style manual rather repels me — and that’s the real reason I haven’t written the docs. Helpful help would probably look a lot more like a short FAQ — short enough that useful information can be gathered in a minute or two, easily searchable, and only bothering to answer questions people actually ask.

I don’t mean to imply the gnome documentation project is completely off base — obviously they’ve done a lot of thinking and work on their templates. But I do wonder if there might not be a better model for writing application documentation — something that would not only be easier for developers to sit down and write, but also more helpful to the average user.

Sat, Feb. 19th, 2005, 01:27 pm
afadednegative: (no subject)

I keep trying to install the Lila theme, and everytime I install it, it doesn't show up in the theme list, and I don't know why.

Fri, Oct. 29th, 2004, 10:11 pm
atomic0x: Welcome to GNOME users!

I've started this livejournal community because I was bored one night and couldn't find a gnome community on livejournal.com. I hope that this community will become a great resource for livejournal members to find updates on their favorite linux desktop, or for people curious about GNOME and gnu/linux.

So to start off here are some general resources for gnome users:

  • The official home of GNOME

  • gnomefiles.org - an ever-expanding comprehensive listing of GNOME software

  • Footnotes has news articles from the GNOME community

  • GnomeJournal is an ezine in it's infancy but has a couple of good articles on the GNOME 2.8 release.

  • ubuntu linux - I highly reccomend this free(dom) distro

  • Gnoppix - If you're curious but don't want to install linux try this distribution. Download, burn, boot! Boom! you've got a working gnu/linux system complete with GNOME.

  • Break my gentoo has bleeding edge ebuilds for gentoo users who want the latest GNOME technologies

  • If anyone has an more links of interest feel free to add them in the comments or post your own

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