Thursday, February 12, 2009

About getting used to new programs and the lamentable lack of documentation

Okay, so I've been playing around with Vegas for nearly a week now - love it! So many advanced features, so many possibilities... I probably shouldn't do this while in the middle of working on a project, but I just can't stop myself from wanting to use it on the movie.

Which brings me to a thing that I'm not that happy about - I printed out the handbook that came with the program ( it seems nowadays nobody likes to waste paper on documentation anymore - I wonder why that is - okay, there's the cost factor, but with a program of this prize category... or maybe it's because I've got a "bundle-version" - or do the programmers naturally assume, as this is a technical product, that it will be purchased mostly by men who are bound to throw the handbook away at first sight anyway? :p).

Anyway - while the handbook is okay, giving details of general use and how to get started on a project, there's next to nothing on the advanced features on offer. You're forced to find out either by a) hours of fiddling around, not really knowing what you're doing and missing all the best things in the process; b) watching online tutorials - some good, some bad, and sometimes confusing things even more; c) pestering unsuspecting long-time-users you happen to know (thank you!); and/or d) buying a tutorial book.

I did that (haven't got it yet, unfortunately..)

So while I don't begrudge the people who write tutorial books their money, I still think a handbook coming with a software should have a comprehensive list of the things the program is able to do. Then such a simple thing as resizing a video you want to play on a viewscreen in another video wouldn't be so.... challenging.

Besides, I'm old fashioned - I like written documentation. I like to be able to look something up in written form, preferably with illustrations. Of course, I also like discovering things on my own, have to admit that - but if I'm not able to, the knowledge that it's there for me to read up is very comforting.

So yes, this is a plea for better documentation on software. Anyone with me? :)

8 Kommentare:

Killian said...

Despite what I said on Sunday (re the manual; and yes, I noticed you commented about it above :P),I do agree.

There are certain times when you just DON'T have the time to faff about spending hours looking through reams of stuff you printed yourself to find the one smidgeon of info you need to complete a scene (quite apart from the cost in ink and paper and the environmental impact... which is the excuse I bet the developers will use: "in order to reduce the environmental impact, we provide all our documentation in electronic format (for that, you can usually read "in order to keep our costs down..."; call me an old cynic if you wish :P))

Most software these days, I've noticed, doesn't have nearly the amount of documentation as it used to have. I remember the days where, if the manual didn't tell you you could do it, the program just couldn't. NOW I'm showing my age... ;)

sisch said...

Hehe, sorry Killian - I just couldn't resist! :D And I don't think you're a cynic - I fear you're right....

I bet you (like me) remember the days when a computer game came with a nice, glossy handbook - often with illustration or artwork to boot.... *sigh*.. ah, the good ol' days!

Dulci said...

Don't you love the people who have taken the time to make video tutorials for the rest of us? I don't even want to think about how much longer it would take me to figures out without that crutch.

Hugh said...

Final Cut Studio, interestingly, still does come with enough manuals to kill a medium-sized horse. It's great.

Kate Fosk and Michael R. Joyce said...

I tend to think of video tutorials as a last resort, they are so linear and not searchable, but like Dulci I am very grateful for those users who take the effort to produce them. Mike and I have been beta testing a new program the last couple of days and their approach has been to set up a wiki and let the viewers fill it in, or not in this case. So I am stuck on a particular point, probably the same point as other users. I could write to the developers..or I could find another program which is better documented. I wonder what most people will do? At least with vegas there are answers out there, on forums etc. Frustrating I know -Kate

Tari Akpodiete said...

I totally agree with you.

This has been one of my long-term frustrations with Moviestorm. Yes, there is in-game help, but there is no user guide, no conprehensive manual, just some woefully outdated tutorial videos, and those don't even cover that much.

not everyone can just catch on by fooling around with a program. some people need to be able to refer to a manual, sometimes for learning, and sometimes just to check something. i don't mind if it comes in PDF form, so long as it actually exists! I just got a Sony Vegas package actually. I opted for boxed delivery, and I think it came with a printed manual, but I'd have to check.

also helpful are those stiff cards that used to come with programs, the double-sided reference cards that have the shortcuts, tips and tricks on them. like this one for iClone - http://file.reallusion.com/ic/iClone3_Reference_Card.pdf

Norrie said...

I think there can be a happy medium.
Final Cut Express came with a pdf manual that I was going to print out – then I realised that it was 1500 pages!

In some ways I prefer the soft copy: Using the search button makes it easier to find what I'm looking for quickly.

As for tutorial books, the one I bought for FCE came with a DVD with all the movie and sound files. All in folders relating to each of the lessons. Very much a hands on way of learning by doing; by far the best way I think.

sisch said...

Well, seems the Mac people still get manuals which do a little more than explain the basics ... :( ... I'm jealous!

I like the idea of reference cards - very handy! - and of course I'm very thankful for video tutorials, too - I've already found out a lot of things by watching them.

My tutorial book arrived yesterday, and I already know that this was a good investment - it comes with a CD with footage to try things on - I agree with Norrie, learning by doing is the best way - it is comprehensively written and by just skipping into it, I learned things I didn't even know Vegas was capable of! On the other hand, I'm now overwhelmed with possibilities... :D But I'm sure all it will take is time and perseverance.

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