A reader writes:
I know writing as a skill is near and dear to your heart, but I’ve yet to see any articles/opinions/blogs on the current state of CAD documentation. You know, the technical documents, User’s Guides, tutorials, and other collateral that is delivered with the software to facilitate the installation and usage of the product. What’s your opinion of this side of the technology for the average CAD user?
I feel that documentation is going downhill in general, for these reasons:
- As CAD software becomes more complex, it becomes harder to document, and with the resulting larger number of errors.
- New hires in the documentation department don't understand the software, and write trivial descriptions.
- Internationalization means that screen grabs and illustrations-with-callouts are removed, because it costs too much to manually replace them.
- Programmers make minor changes to existing commands, which are not noticed by doc writers.
- To increase profits, printed documentation is eliminated (no concern for me, but it is a problem for some, who end up paying extra for printed copies).
- Vendors generate extra profits from training and consulting, and so benefit from ensuring documentation that remains poor.
- Small CAD vendors can't afford proper documentation.
Having written help files and books using beta software, I understand the difficulty of writing docs when the software is unfinished and still changing. But vendors could issue a Service Pack for the help file after the software ships.
Finally, there is the subtle difference between documentation that the doc writer thinks is well-done, and what the CAD user finds useful. That's an eternal conflict, due to differences in learning styles.