User manual

Do you have a comprehensive user manual for the PE edition. It would be really helpful to have one that explains the use of the various menus and its background, i.e. how to use them in a sensible way.

Also, are there articles which I can read that explain a bit more about the background of the underlying technology that you are using.

Thank you

Yeah, me too…
devonthink looks great but quite scary without a manual- I already put lots of stuff in it preparing my work…

I have a DEVONthink 1.2.4 manual, which I hope will get updated. My problem is that I like to print out relevant parts of manuals. Each page of the 1.2.4 manual has the DEVONian forest in black as a panel on the left-hand side of the page, which wastes too much inl (and space) when you print it. Please can we have a manual without this forest on every page.

There are no articles. Why? Because the technology has been built from scratch and is based on our own simple ideas (although a lot of ideas are still missing currently or are not used in DEVONthink/DEVONagent).

As we’re a small software company, we try to keep things as effective as possible. So, it’s always more difficult to update both, a stand-alone manual and the integrated online help, and keep them sychronised. We chose to move to online help only and will extend this more and more from version to version.

What would you prefer, an extensive online help or a "printed" manual (PDF)?

Ideally I would like a manual that I can print. But understanding your situation for thi stage of the development, an on line help is a minimum.
However, to expand your user base and to be able to withstand the scrutiny of reviews from magazines like MacWorld and on-line websites etc., at some point you will need a good manual. Once you go with an enterprise edition, you are dealing with professional companies who demand documentation. So it is best to start the process sooner than later.

Maybe you can hire a (retired) writer who debriefs your people and logs user’s experiences and who starts the process of putting together a manual. A minimum is a thorough description of each of the menus, how it works, when to use it and what it does. Etc.

Building an FAQ will also help to create a manual.

Can I offer a compromise suggestion?

I find the Apple Help Viewer slow and frustrating - worse than useless, in fact. It looks up files for every app you have, and searches the Internet for other files. If you’re in Europe on dialup, this is hopeless.

Instead, use html files for help. Ctrl-click on the DEVONthink icon and select "Show Package Contents". Now navigate as follows: Contents => Resources => English.lproj => DEVONthink Help. Open the file named "DEVONthink Help.htm" in your browser and bookmark it. You now have instantaneous help, which you can print in a font and size to suit your eyesight (PDF creators often seem to think that tiny text is a good idea).

You can do this for other apps (if they have html files in their English.lproj folder), such as iPhoto, AppleWorks, Mailsmith etc.

If the DT developers keep the html files up to date with each release, this method would suit me fine for a printable manual and do away with the extra work of creating a PDF, which I may have difficulty reading anyway. Only one manual required.

I personally dislike reading thing on my computer and especially using the Apple Help stuff, it’s slow and … argghhhh.

Please consider taking that documentation and make something that can be printed (I personally would use a "rendering" engine to produce different kind of documentation)

In the absence of a manual, I resorted to the following crude method, since I am very much a newbie and did not have the patience to think of a better way to do it.  All I wanted was a basic checklist and glossary, and did not expect a detailed manual. Like others, I hate to read extensive text onscreen.

I pulled up every topic of the help menu and maximized its size on the screen. Then I made a screen shot of that page, yielding an Acrobat file in Mac OS-X.  Opening Acrobat, I cropped the screen-shot image down to only the text, printed out about 20 resulting pages, sorted them into a logical sequence and stapled them together.  I had tried cutting and pasting the help text but that did not work.

It’s not great but it gives me a paper reference that I keep in a three-ring binder with similar reference materials.

A pity that such a low-quality method must be used to help explain such a high-quality application.  Or can someone suggest a more elegant approach?

We’re already evaulating this to generate both, the online help and some sort of “printable” manual from the same data source. This will take some time, though, so we’ll continue to update the integrated online help in the meantime.

“We’re already evaluating this to generate both, the online help and some sort of “printable” manual from the same data source.”

But you already have this, don’t you? I have printed your online help from my web browser by bookmarking the DEVONthink Help.htm file in the English.lproj folder as I described in an earlier post. Okay, you have to click the link to each Help html page and print each page individually, rather than as one contiguous file, but how hard is that? Plus I get to choose the font and the font size of the printed matter.

This method of printing eliminates having two data sources and the problems of synchronising them. Or am I missing something?

francismcguire could certainly have saved himself a lot of trouble. He wrote of his method of printing: "A pity that such a low-quality method must be used to help explain such a high-quality application. Or can someone suggest a more elegant approach?" Well, yes, I can. Re-read the method I suggested a couple of days earlier. Francis jumped through extraordinary hoops to print the Help manual, when he could have simply printed the entire document from his web browser by following a method that had already been explained. Why try to re-invent the wheel?

What about using Docbook (docbook.org/wiki/moin.cgi/DocBook) to generate the formatted HTML and a PDF manual?  All the information that would be in the manual would be stored in seperate, non-formatted files, but docbook could be used to generate the finished documentation (whether for Apple help or a PDF manual).  This would allow the DEVONThink developers to only update the documentation in one spot, and then have an automated process to generate the resulting manual.

I’d be willing to help out on this for the price of a DEVONAgent license ;P.

We’ve decided to move to XML/XSL and XSL-FO to automatically generate three versions of the documentation: Online Help, screen readable manual (A5, landscape) and printable manual (A4, portrait). So, expect the next version of DEVONthink to be delivered with a “real” manual again.

Eric.