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Mindy

User Manuals

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Please restore full written user manuals, which, I understand, you discontinued in 2016.  The information posted on your website is a tiny fraction of what the application is capable of, and as a result, your users can't hope to access all of the capabilities of the software you have put so much effort into developing because they won't even know about them.  The manuals don't have to be published, just PDF'd and posted.  I assume the last one posted is substantially complete, with only a couple of years of enhancements added.  Just update it, PDF it, post it.  

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The young whipper snappers don't learn that there is a mental geography to a published text. I use the building code all the time. It is now a PDF & I can key word search but having a chunk o' dead trees that I can remember not the page number or the item number but WHERE it lives is so much easier to remember. The same goes for software text. If it was in a publication, I can remember where stuff is and not have to feel like everything is in flux.

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I would add that the general concept of who designs the user manual be carefully reconsidered. I whole heartedly support the concept put forward over the past few years that the user manual should be structured on an example based model. Want to do a dormer? It should be as easy as finding it in the roof section with a step by step example. Winding stair, stepped foundation? , real world examples of the curtain wall tool? ... and so on. Trying to connect isolated functions and tools to produce desired results can be, and is, frustrating. In many cases I have to resort to internet searches to find out how to do things.

 

I would be happy with a pdf based manual that integrates tool/feature descriptions (as it is now) with "how to" instructions and movies. 

 

Now what was it I was working on...?

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22 hours ago, Mindy said:

Please restore full written user manuals, which, I understand, you discontinued in 2016.  The information posted on your website is a tiny fraction of what the application is capable of, and as a result, your users can't hope to access all of the capabilities of the software you have put so much effort into developing because they won't even know about them.  The manuals don't have to be published, just PDF'd and posted.  I assume the last one posted is substantially complete, with only a couple of years of enhancements added.  Just update it, PDF it, post it.  

 

I was the author of 4 of the written manuals. The manuals were both printed and PDF. The PDF had embedded movies for those that want to watch. They really worked for everyone.

 

However, the sales were low. Manuals take many man-hours to update and without enough sales, it was not economic for me to continue.

 

I Now have online courses on my web site that are movie  based. 

http://store.archoncad.com

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Nemetschek needs to correct the mistake of getting rid of a user manual. I've been a MiniCad / VW user since 1995. With each new version I depend on a manual to learn how to use new tools, commands and settings. I have been wasting too much time trying to get this information the last few years. 

The manual should give:

- specific explanations of how to use each tool / command / setting - with all options listed and what they do. 

- examples of how to use the tools, commands and settings

- examples of how to use the tools, commands, settings to do specific tasks like "make a dormer" or "make a site model" and what different options provide. 

A PDF of the above or web based manual would do the trick. Printed would be a waste since it's static. 

Does Nemetschek want a user manual password protected? Is that the problem? Having no manual hurts paying users. 

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Perhaps a way to address this a three fold approach:

 

1) If not already the case, I think Nemetschek should  be funding some of Johnathan's work & make it part of the subscription to Service Select

2) Have an option for a dead tree manual that's a reasonable price ($25?) in a three ring binder

3) Rather than publish a new Manual every year publish update pages that users can remove & replace with new pages

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1 hour ago, Jim Smith said:

1) If not already the case, I think Nemetschek should  be funding some of Johnathan's work & make it part of the subscription to Service Select

it is not, was not the case.

I certainly would have liked to have been funded to the work that I do.

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I vote to pressure Nemetschek to contract with Jonathan Pickup to produce and maintain a Nemetechek owned users manual. 

And, if not with Jonathan, to have an in-house person in charge of this very important part of every software package for every Owner of the software. 

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3 hours ago, Henry Finch said:

The manual should give:

- specific explanations of how to use each tool / command / setting - with all options listed and what they do. 

- examples of how to use the tools, commands and settings

- examples of how to use the tools, commands, settings to do specific tasks like "make a dormer" or "make a site model" and what different options provide. 


This is the plan!

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The entire contents of the user manual/pdf (comprising almost 3,000 pages of text, if it were printed in paper form) is available in the online help system. It has a table of contents, if you like to look at it in book order, and a search function, if you just want to type in keywords to find the section you're looking for. At the beginning of the help system is a listing of all new features in the annual release, with links to the relevant sections of the help. We also link to many of the customer success team's videos from the relevant help sections. The help system includes a pdf list of all the tools and commands in the software, their location, and which products they are available in. The help system is designed to be viewed on any device, from a large desktop monitor to a smartphone.  

 

help.vectorworks.net

 

You can scroll to the bottom of the table of contents on the right and click on Help and Additional Resources to learn about the various help system features, including searching and browsing, and ways to access context-sensitive help directly from the software. 

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22 hours ago, Jim Smith said:

Perhaps a way to address this a three fold approach:

 

1) If not already the case, I think Nemetschek should  be funding some of Johnathan's work & make it part of the subscription to Service Select

2) Have an option for a dead tree manual that's a reasonable price ($25?) in a three ring binder

3) Rather than publish a new Manual every year publish update pages that users can remove & replace with new pages

This is what Bricscad has been doing with Ralph Grabowski who wrote and sold PDF/e-books about Bricscad and other CAD programs. For the past two or three years all his books are now free for download on the Bricscad website instead of having to pay 25-40 USD for each book (he had two and one freebie). Like Jonathan experienced more and more people are less willing to pay for ebooks if it costs more than just a few dollars.

Online help files etc. are all nice and useful, but a good structured book that goes from basics to more advanced in proper way is a lot easier to use than bouncing around over the online help pages. Sometimes flexibility that comes with online help pages is too flexible for practical use.

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1 hour ago, Art V said:

Online help files etc. are all nice and useful, but a good structured book that goes from basics to more advanced in proper way is a lot easier to use than bouncing around over the online help pages. Sometimes flexibility that comes with online help pages is too flexible for practical use.

 

I know that I'm a "digital immigrant" and that Boomers like me are perhaps the end of the line for being comfortable users of the printed word however; there is something to be said for the physical geography about where something is in a text. For example I know where stuff is by some numbered sections of the the Building Code , but I also know, instinctively, where physically other things are in the printed form of the code. As Art says Digital versions have strengths for some searches but I prefer a giant honking binder I can flip through. So I'd like to see that kind of thing available to me. I know I would use more of the tools and techniques of VW if I had such a resource. 

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I would like to see parts of Ralph Grabowski's books included or attached to the help system.

Because it is much easier to navigate and find your specific item.

 

For VW, the help system of the german version looks a bit more extended and explaining.

Edited by zoomer

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2 hours ago, Jim Smith said:
4 hours ago, Art V said:

Online help files etc. are all nice and useful, but a good structured book that goes from basics to more advanced in proper way is a lot easier to use than bouncing around over the online help pages. Sometimes flexibility that comes with online help pages is too flexible for practical use.

 

I know that I'm a "digital immigrant" and that Boomers like me are perhaps the end of the line for being comfortable users of the printed word however; there is something to be said for the physical geography about where something is in a text. For example I know where stuff is by some numbered sections of the the Building Code , but I also know, instinctively, where physically other things are in the printed form of the code. As Art says Digital versions have strengths for some searches but I prefer a giant honking binder I can flip through. So I'd like to see that kind of thing available to me. I know I would use more of the tools and techniques of VW if I had such a resource. 

I agree that paper manuals have advantages over digital versions as well documented in posts above.  There is potential for Help, at least, and probably other existing digital resources to be offered in a format that users could print and update as needed in a sheaf, book or binder - probably free to access.  I also like the idea of a printed form of all or sections that could be ordered on demand so that individual users could build and maintain the manual they want - probably priced per section.  Manuals might continue in updated print form, but as add on costs to a license, or as 3rd party items. It seems unlikely to me that a full, comprehensive printed Manual book or binder would ever again be offered as a free item issued with each update of a license - but what do I know?.  

 

I think this thread is part of a long term ongoing discussion about user resources such as Help and User Manual. To me, the wish seems to be for blending of Help and Manual and asks that they are offered, print and digital, as part of the software license.  This concept has merit from the user standpoint. But the intent and use of Help and Manual normally diverge a bit, so it will be hard to please everyone.

• Help is traditionally treated as a source for definitions of things, lists of available actions, and other short form info. Visits to Help are intended to be quick - a reference reminder or a quick starter for something new, maybe with some diagrams and screen shots. Help assumes more than basic ability with the software. Help is not intended as Training. Topics are intentionally discrete.

• Manuals traditionally provide longer form use cases, extended process discussion/example, best practices and workflow, perhaps even what to do when the wheels fall off.  Manuals are a low grade of Training, but with diligence can be self guided training.

• Help and Manuals in Vectorworks are already blending as Help expands/evolves and incorporates a few things from Manuals. Help really is improving in scope and usability.

• Manuals meanwhile shift to 3rd party producers, and the whole enterprise shifts to searchable digital formats.

• Help and Manuals are nowadays enhanced and in some cases supplanted by the ever growing multi sourced codex(?) of forums, videos, pod casts and other digital resources, in house and 3rd party, free and tolled.

• Training is offered in many forms and intensity, from many sources, and at many price points.

 

Publication, digital or paper, of Help & Manual requires all the steps of curation, writing, editing, design, and more, all of which is time consuming, potentially fraught with legal liability (claims it gives volume, but then the calc is wrong?), and out of date as soon as ready for distribution - definite expenses at each step.  The paper versions of Help and Manual have the added time and expenses of of printing, bulk shipping and distribution management (user interaction, billing, packaging, addressing, mailing). Digital and paper both need updates to be effective.

 

Just a final note.  I'm a prime target for manuals - demographic, former use, saved a bunch of them, whine about the nostalgia of their disappearance. But for some reason, I never look at them and really adapted to the digital versions.  Biggest problem is many digital resources are internet based and internet connection/speed is unreliable.  Might be same for others.  Onboard PDF Help is really appreciated.

 

-B

 

 

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