Manuals and other books

Do you read the manual to the software you use when you first buy it, or do you just dive in? Or do you try to read it, and get so bored you would rather fool with the program, and figure things out through trial and error?

The first program I ever got, other than the ones that came with the Mac was PageMaker (may it rest in peace), and since I had “borrowed” the software, I did not have a manual. I figured everything out through trial and error. I was putting out a monthly newsletter for the local headquarters of Goodwill Industries, and I remember thinking that if, someday, the company would only buy me the software, I would read the manual from cover to cover and learn all those things that I couldn’t figure out to do. I remember when I finally did get a hold of the manual and discovered…that it didn’t address the issue I had, nor answer any of the questions that I wanted to know about. It wasn’t until I joined a local Mac users group, and asked others, that I got my answers. That experience and later similar ones turned me off from reading manuals.

And apparently a lot of other people have this problem. There is a series of books called the “Missing Manuals“, put out by O’Reillly. Called “The books that should have been in the box” they cover things that the manual didn’t quite touch on, or didn’t
Real World” series, by Peachpit Press, is another great series, and the one I used when I wanted to find out how to use the products in the real world.

I was thinking about this because I was cleaning up my office, and came across an old Peachpit catalogue and was musing on all the potential books I have yet to buy out there. I have a bookcase full of books, but there are only a few I refer too often. So much to learn, so much out there.

Of course, no manual can tell you how to do something if it can not be done on that program. Sometimes, after I’ve bought whatever book there is, and gone from end to end, I realized that what I want to do can’t be done, and I have to settle for finding another solution.

Or, if you don’t want to go out and buy the books, and it is so tempting, O’Reilly is offering, along with other publishers that are in the group, something called Safari Bookshelf With this service you can read 10 books for $19.99 per month. You can search the entire library to see what it is you want. And, if you decide you want the dead-tree version, you can get a 30% discount when you purchase the books. Books included come from these publishers: Addison-Wesley, Adobe Press, Cisco Press, Hewlett Packard Press, New Riders, Prentice Hall, Peachpit Press, Sun Microsystems Press, Sams and Que.

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