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Profound Disappointment

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Posted by Daly de Gagne
Aug 10, 2010 at 02:10 PM


Hugh, thanks for your post.

Re manuals and the quality of the writing: To me a manual is poorly written if it fails to give the level of detail necessary to get a feature to work correctly. Writers who know a product inside and out sometimes make assumptions about a little detail, and it makes all the difference for the end user - often causing a tremendous waste of time.

Two examples:

I just did a search in DevonThink’s PDF help file on tags trying to find out why when I create a tag it sometimes shows up in the tag group with an icon, and why it sometimes does not. Could not find the answer - 15 minutes gone. Is it important? To me it is, because intuitively if a program is that sophisticated, a created tag should show up in the tag group, which will then make it easier to see what tags are there without having to open the tag window, which stays on top until it is closed. Is the answer in the PDF - perhaps.

NoteBook has a links capability. I read the bit in the manual. I assumed a degree of automation that once I made the link, I could simply go to where I wanted the link to land, and complete the operation. The manual failed to tell me I needed to first put a title in that location. Silly me assumed that if I did as I was told the wording in the originating cell would appear in the destination cell.

Then there’s the instructions for using columns in Mori, which are completely useless.

In terms of overall presentation help files under the Help menu item, there seems to be less consistency with the Mac than Windows, and overall the files seem less helpful. Not what I would have expected.

The more complex the program, the more simple and practical the instructions have to be. Good technical writers get that, and that’s why they are worth their weight in gold, and sometimes actually get paid well in the process.


Hugh wrote:
> >Some immediate random thoughts:
> >- it helps to have a strong reason for
>switching, and a goal. I use my Mac for writing, as I previously used Word on the PC. That
>was until, first, I lost a lot of material in Word on the PC, and then, second, having
>tried Liquid Story Binder, PageFour, and various other Windows writing
>applications whose names I forget, I spied Scrivener. As I’ve told Scrivener’s
>developer, his application is the most expensive consumer software ever; I bought a
>MacBook for it. Only later did I discover other useful applications that can support
>what I do, such as DevonThink and MacJournal.
> >- you’ve said little in your
>observations about the consistency and connectedness of the Mac interface. For me
>that’s almost more important than the qualities of individual applications - the
>ease with which, for example, you can shuttle text around using the Services menu.
>Incidentally, it’s worth learning how to make best use of the Services menu.
> >- some
>of the applications you’re looking at or planning to look at are really heavyweight
>and take quite a long time to learn, just as their counterparts on the PC also do. I’ve
>been using Scrivener for at least a couple of years now; last week I learnt of an
>important feature that I’d been ignorant of before. I’ve scratched the surface of
>Curio; I’ve quite a long way to go with DevonThink Pro, although it’s my main data
>repository. It’s not that the manuals are poorly written; Scrivener, Curio and
>DevonThink have very good reference and tuition materials. It’s just that there’s a
>lot of features and functionality to absorb, and it’s necessary to persevere. Even
>Circus Ponies’ NoteBook is quite a big programme.
> >- but ultimately, “diff’rent
>strokes for diff’rent folks”: I’m with Manfred on this. Maybe the Mac and its software
>will suit you, maybe they won’t.
> >A couple of words about DevonThink. DevonThink
>technology has lots of bells and whistles, but fundamentally it has two features
>which are distinctive: the ability to handle gigabytes of data without choking, and
>the ability to offer you connections between documents you hadn’t thought of. To give
>an example: I have several thousand documents in DevonThink on recent Southern
>African events; I recently searched for information about Nelson Mandela in prison,
>and DevonThink also offered me a useful, long-forgottent note I’d slung in about
>someone who was involved in the education of Mandela’s children. By the way, only
>consider DevonThink Pro or Pro Office (which offers OCR features). The lesser
>members of the family are insufficiently versatile.
> >But… if you don’t want these
>advantages and don’t have the material to fill DevonThink up, I wouldn’t bother with
>it. There are perfectly good less heavyweight substitutes on the Mac, such as
>Eaglefiler and Together, and they’ll be easier to get to grips with.
> >H
> >