Thursday, March 8, 2012

Writing a technical manual

A new project for work...yay! I like new projects, especially projects that are challenging. My new project is to write a short technical manual on how to use the necessary functions pertaining to work on the Pandigital Super Nova tablet. Yes, it's one of the cheap tablets, but it's definitely a good tablet for business because of its price and usability. My tech manual is going to focus on the what the users are actually going to be using the tablet for which are email and file viewing/editing. 

The tablets are going to be used by court members enabling them to view the files normally printed out on the tablet, which over time will reduce waste and save money in the long run. Files will be emailed to the a single court email account which I will setup on each tablet. The court user can download the attached file from the email and save it to the tablet for viewing. The built-in office suite in the tablet has a word processor, spreadsheet creator, power-point creator, and PDF creator; they all work very well by the way, I was impressed. 

Also, the tablet has an option of connecting to a file share on the network it's connected to. I created a share on our server accessible by the AD user I created with read-only permissions. I created this share so the court users could access larger files (like policies and procedures manual) that possibly couldn't be emailed due to the large file size.

Because of the tablet's simplicity, writing the tech manual has not been difficult. Many of the functions are simple, not having to navigate through multiple upon multiple windows and operations. I think the manual will be of use to the court users, but honestly, I think the presentation will be good enough. However, there are some things I like to keep in mind when writing a manual.

1. Keep it simple. You're not writing to A+ technicians, you're writing (mostly) to people who just want the device they bought to work. They don't care about why you have to go about performing the function this or that way, nor do they care about how awesome the product and company are; don't involve the history of the device. Stick to instructing the user on how to use the device.

2. Be clear. Don't be too elegant in your instructions. Make sure your instructions are clear enough anyone can read them and then be able actually perform the operation on the device. Don't assume the reader knows the "in-between" steps of an operation. Include the little things the user will see along the way of performing the operation.

3. Make sure and include a link or something to the advanced functions of the device. I like to call the basic manual the "get it up and going" manual that includes turning the device on, how to navigate around the device, and how to perform basic functions. The advanced manual is usually longer, more detailed, and most likely won't be read by the basic user. So, in that manual, I think one can dive deeper into the other functions of the device, but the manual still needs to be clear.

So far, I'm impressed with the Pandigital Super Nova tablet. Is it comparable to the Samsung Galaxy Tab or the iPad? No, but it is a good tablet for simple business tasks like file sharing via email and network shares, creating documents, and for its front and rear camera. I think it will be a good tablet for our needs.

Check it out here.

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