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Observations on DP8's Manuals

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Re: Observations on DP8's Manuals

Postby Todzilla » Wed Apr 10, 2013 3:04 pm

Manuals should not be read. They should browsed when questions arise. The DP manual is NOT optimized for browsing. As such, I typically find myself more frustrated after using it than before. I find forums like this better for figuring out functionalities.
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Re: Observations on DP8's Manuals

Postby MIDI Life Crisis » Wed Apr 10, 2013 3:54 pm

I didn't realize there was a set way manuals must be designed. As a result, I find myself adapting to each manual based on the flawed designs each vendor has chosen.

Maybe you could point is to the thesis that spells this out?


I didn't think so...
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Re: Observations on DP8's Manuals

Postby bayswater » Wed Apr 10, 2013 4:04 pm

Todzilla wrote:Manuals should not be read. They should browsed when questions arise. The DP manual is NOT optimized for browsing. As such, I typically find myself more frustrated after using it than before. I find forums like this better for figuring out functionalities.

I agree there isn't much point in a thorough reading the DP manual when you get started. But after using DP for a while, a cover to cover read is very useful. You'll get aha moments, and find all kinds of stuff that you'll use regularly. I make a quick note of new things I find, and that makes it easier to remember them when you need them.

And now it's easier than ever. (PDF)
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Re: Observations on DP8's Manuals

Postby Todzilla » Thu Apr 18, 2013 11:28 am

MIDI Life Crisis wrote:I didn't realize there was a set way manuals must be designed. As a result, I find myself adapting to each manual based on the flawed designs each vendor has chosen.

Maybe you could point is to the thesis that spells this out?


I didn't think so...

This may come as a shock to you, but there is an entire field of technical writing, involving optimal document design, indexing strategies, ergonomics of information access, etc...

So if you're asking for a single specific thesis outlining an entire field of study, then your cynicism is appropriate.

You may disagree, but the idea of a user manual that doesn't index every command and UI term is, in my opinion, poorly designed. If I see a term on a pull down menu that I have questions about, I should be able to search it in the index, or failing that, search for it in the PDF manuals.

Just saying the idea of criticizing a user manual for not being as good as it could be is not heretical, especially when one considers access to official documentation is another differentiator between legitimate software users and pirates.
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Re: Observations on DP8's Manuals

Postby MIDI Life Crisis » Thu Apr 18, 2013 11:41 am

Thanks for the lesson. I've actually produced white papers for offsite storage devices and understand theoretical structures for technical writing. I also know that end users are often not technicians, but humans and as such there is a lot of wiggle room for something called "artistic license" as well as innovation.

I refuse to get stuck in a world where there is a paradigm that must be followed. That is counter to the concepts of art and counter to the concept of progress. Just because there was a path to the Far East didn't mean Columbus had to follow that path and not bother to sail in the opposite direction. Things can always be improved and clearly, writing about computer programs, so end users can understand what the f#$% they're doing, is one of them.

The DP manual is just fine, IMO - warts and all.
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Re: Observations on DP8's Manuals

Postby Shooshie » Sat Apr 27, 2013 9:23 am

Well, I've actually written manuals using various style manuals, one of which was Apple's. Apple put out an entire book (in a loose-leaf binder, if memory serves) on their standards for font selection, paragraph formatting, list formatting, heading insets, margins, gutters, headers, footers, page numbers, grammar, punctuation, and everything else you can imagine. Made Strunk & White look like a pamphlet. Then there was the Chicago Manual of Style, and others as well. Different folks wanted different standards, and each thought the one they used outclassed all the others.

Indexing was always the hardest part. You wouldn't want to index every appearance of a word, because then you'd have a dozen page numbers beside every entry. You wanted the main entry and any secondary entries that gave more context, background, or usage skills on that subject. When the word appeared as an indirect object, for instance, or a modifier of another word, then you generally didn't include that in the index. It's a tough call, sometimes, and it's easy to err on the side of caution and include something you're doubtful about, but that doesn't make a streamlined index.

MOTU did an interesting thing. They have every discussion labeled with a subheading, and you can read the Table of Contents and see every subheading, thus giving you other options besides the index. One of the problems in indexing a manual like that of DP's is the meaning of words. One particularly slippery word is "controller." It has multiple meanings, all of which are pretty much essential to using MIDI and DAWs. So, how many lines does DP give to Controllers in the index? One, and it's a referral: "see Continuous Data." So, we learn right off that we've got to be more specific and call things by their exact names. Continuous data, MIDI Keyboard, Control Surface.

I've run into things that I couldn't find in DP's manual, but that's the exception, not the rule. Now we don't have to worry about those things anymore. DP's manual is searchable! PDFs are great!

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Re: Observations on DP8's Manuals

Postby Todzilla » Thu May 02, 2013 8:26 am

MIDI Life Crisis wrote:Thanks for the lesson. I've actually produced white papers for offsite storage devices and understand theoretical structures for technical writing. I also know that end users are often not technicians, but humans and as such there is a lot of wiggle room for something called "artistic license" as well as innovation.

I refuse to get stuck in a world where there is a paradigm that must be followed. That is counter to the concepts of art and counter to the concept of progress. Just because there was a path to the Far East didn't mean Columbus had to follow that path and not bother to sail in the opposite direction. Things can always be improved and clearly, writing about computer programs, so end users can understand what the f#$% they're doing, is one of them.

The DP manual is just fine, IMO - warts and all.


Sorry to have been condescending. I've spent a lot of time searching for info in the manual, often fruitlessly and took out my frustration in this thread.

I do feel that a well written manual is accessible to its audience, instead of presuming the audience must adjust to it. The same goes for software design. Maybe the DP manual works for everyone else and I'm the lone guy who finds it more confounding than helpful. If so, MOTU shouldn't worry about potentially losing one customer (and in fairness, I'm not sure there are other DAWs out there with far superior documentation).

I have often liked the Apple approach to documentation where each page of documentation is deemed to be symptomatic of ergonomic defect. Thus, the more you have to explain, the harder the product is to explain.

Perhaps, despite my advancing years, forums and video tutorials are just better ways for me to learn the subtleties of the software. For the record, I don't think that product documentation should be art nor do I find it analogous to the conquest of new worlds. Its purpose, in my view, is to make software more comprehensible. And the software design is where the magic should be, as measured in its transparency to the creative process.
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Re: Observations on DP8's Manuals

Postby MIDI Life Crisis » Thu May 02, 2013 9:16 am

My problem with vids and tutorials is they tend to take too long to get thru and don't usually answer the deeper issues I tend to need. I don't usually have the time or patience to get thru them. I read fast (too fast, sometimes, as witness some responses I've posted here and elsewhere... GUILTY!) but when I'm searching for a procedure or an answer to a problem I'm troubleshooting, I like to skim as fast as possible. PDF manuals are great for this most of the time, but not always. I simply can not find, for example, options for quicktime exports in DP that I was "sure" were there in previous versions. I searched and searched and they are not to be found... yet.

Not everyone will agree on everything (or even anything). We have what we have and for myself, I just try to make the best of it.
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Re: Observations on DP8's Manuals

Postby CT » Sun May 05, 2013 10:46 am

One of the best things about DP is the printed manual.

You can solve a problem without having to scroll and switch screens and lose sight of what you were looking at.

You can have four fingers marking pages for instant access and you will probably never break a manual and lose your key-code.

.pdfs are useful, but not a replacement.

Keep on printing, Motu!
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Re: Observations on DP8's Manuals

Postby MIDI Life Crisis » Sun May 05, 2013 11:07 am

I haven't used the paper manual since DP8. No need so far but it's good bathroom reading. :)
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Re: Observations on DP8's Manuals

Postby supersonic » Sat Dec 21, 2013 2:44 am

I use Ipad to read DP manual while working. Handy. So far I have always found the answer either in it, here or other videos etc.
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Re: Observations on DP8's Manuals

Postby jantoman » Thu Feb 06, 2014 12:00 pm

I just finished a HUGE project on DP8, and I had to browse the printed manual several times. Thanks to Shooshie to point to PDF files… I should spend more time on this forum.

For me, the main reason to write here is to confront our way of using DP and exchange tips and suggestions: sometimes I've been lucky to find some answers to my problems, but anyway I learned something new.
In fact, the hardest task is to find the topic I'm looking for: there's nothing like a "knowledge base" here, and when my question is hard to condense in a keyword or two in the Search field, I'm lost. Ok, maybe I'm too old and my English isn't good enough… but it's always easier to look in the manual, as long as the answer is there. But sometimes it isn't.

For example: suddenly my DAW began responding slower to transport commands and I needed to check the Audio Performance window, as I was used to do in DP7, but I couldn't open it because the Menu command was grayed out. I browsed the printed manual and the instructions were still referring to the old DP versions. I checked out the "What's new in DP8" PDF but I didn't find anything about it. I was in the middle of a hard editing session and I hadn't much time, so I tried to keep on without it… but I felt a bit frustrated.

The question is: should I submit it to MOTU ? Would it help them to improve the manual, or it's just one of those little things nobody cares about? I mean, even if I'm blind and the answer is plain clear, it's not written where it's supposed to be, that's for sure.
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Re: Observations on DP8's Manuals

Postby Gravity Jim » Mon Oct 13, 2014 1:48 pm

Shooshie wrote:Well, I've actually written manuals using various style manuals, one of which was Apple's. Apple put out an entire book (in a loose-leaf binder, if memory serves) on their standards for font selection, paragraph formatting, list formatting, heading insets, margins, gutters, headers, footers, page numbers, grammar, punctuation, and everything else you can imagine. Made Strunk & White look like a pamphlet.


Every corporation has a corporate design manual and style guide. It's SOP for companies at Apple's level. I've helped create a couple ( a grueling process, as you can imagine), and wrote the "book" on use of lecithin for food scientists based on a style guide I helped create. The usually one in binders so pages can be added, removed or changed over time.
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Re: Observations on DP8's Manuals

Postby Shooshie » Thu Oct 23, 2014 1:57 pm

Gravity Jim wrote:
Shooshie wrote:Well, I've actually written manuals using various style manuals, one of which was Apple's. Apple put out an entire book (in a loose-leaf binder, if memory serves) on their standards for font selection, paragraph formatting, list formatting, heading insets, margins, gutters, headers, footers, page numbers, grammar, punctuation, and everything else you can imagine. Made Strunk & White look like a pamphlet.


Every corporation has a corporate design manual and style guide. It's SOP for companies at Apple's level. I've helped create a couple ( a grueling process, as you can imagine), and wrote the "book" on use of lecithin for food scientists based on a style guide I helped create. The usually one in binders so pages can be added, removed or changed over time.


Impressive that you made a style manual, but that's what it takes to get it exactly like you want it, when there are many writers working on the same books, pamphlets, advertising, manuals, etc. One of the often overlooked parts of Apple's corporate identity was their printed words. For many years, you could not get Apple's font (Apple Garamond), which they reserved for their own look. Just as Apple influenced everyone in the computer industry, they also set new trends and standards in advertising and printing. Those Apple manuals were wonderful to read. They made it seem like there was nothing to using a Mac. And to some extent that was true. As Macs became more complex (a necessity if they were going to compete with other computers) rather than clutter up their manuals, they just left a lot undocumented. I guess they figured that people in the various industries that needed these features would find them one way or another, and they didn't need someone holding their hand.

The page layouts, font choices, and graphics were all immediately identifiable as Apple's. I think everyone wanted to copy Apple's look, because it was clean and fresh — even spacious — but they could not completely do so without Apple Garamond. "New York" font was close, but it wasn't what Apple used. Having access to Apple's style manual (a copy of which I still have) and Apple Garamond made me feel like I had access to insider information! And the manuals I wrote under that style were some of the nicest work I ever did.

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Re: Observations on DP8's Manuals

Postby mikehalloran » Sat Oct 25, 2014 5:37 pm

I no longer care about paper manuals if there's a searchable .pdf. Preview (offline) and Chrome (offline
and online) make any search ridiculously easy. To heck with proper indexing when you can search an 800 page .pdf file for any word in less than a second.

I recently helped someone who insisted that what he wanted to do with a piece of MOTU gear simply could not be done. I went online, found the manual, found the 43 pages that mentioned the protocol, used Acrobat X to assemble only those pages and attached them to email–took a few minutes. The problem was easily solved. The index in the back gave no clue as to where one could look or how this could be done.

I like print manuals for following step-by-step directions but nowadays, displaying the manual on a second screen is pretty easy.

Although Safari and Firefox are better than they used to be, Chrome rocks for searching a long .pdf online. The State of Oregon has a file that is 822 pages today. I can search it in about the time it takes me to type in what I need. Safari and Opera can't search it without exporting first. FireFox makes you scroll through pages or takes about 7 minutes to search the entire document. Chrome tells you how many instances of a word are found immediately. Preview tells you the number of pages on which the word can be found just as quickly.

For example: Preview tells me that the DP 8 User Guide .pdf is 922 pages. Searching for the word, digital,reveals that it is found on 605 of those pages. Chrome tells me that digital is found 2106 times on those pages. You can open any .pdf in Chrome by dragging the file to the icon or alias.
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