SOFTWARE DOCS: Is the reference section passe?

Subject: SOFTWARE DOCS: Is the reference section passe?
From: Peggy Thomson <Peggy_Thompson -at- CCMAIL -dot- OSTI -dot- GOV>
Date: Fri, 28 Jul 1995 10:50:00 -0400


I need your thoughtful replies! With the proliferation of point
and click systems, is the old distinction between tutorial
material and reference material passe? When we documented
command-line systems a few yrs ago, our big manual was divided
into Tutorial and Reference, as suggested by most writers of
software document development methodologies.

Now, we document each task a menu system is supposed to perform,
and each task is a topic, and each topic, in turn, is a words-
and picture-module in the manual. The old division of Tutorial
and Reference just doesn't seem to make sense anymore--the user
looks up a module the first time, to learn how to perform a
task, then relies on the menu after that. Then maybe, as a
refresher, he looks up that module later. So therefore, the
modules are more truly reference material than tutorial

Note: we don't write multiple manuals (customer dictate)--a
user's guide and a reference guide--so suggestions of a two-book
approach won't work for us. And anyway, with a menu system, how
would you know what to put in each book?

Another note: we have a separate Getting Started section, which
tells you how to get in and how to navigate. And we have
appendices for lists of fields, esoteric procedures, lengthy
tabular material, etc.

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