Offline help files and manuals can be close to useless for many programs. I tried to figure out how the darn mail program grouping works, and I opened the Windows Mail help file. From there I tried to search for help… just to end up reading something useless that ended with a question “was this helpful?”.
Then I stopped, searched went to Google and searched again. It was there right away (pointing to Microsoft’s web page by the way), and now I know how to use the mail groups (tip: “options” & “read” tab). It was easier to search from the Internet than search from the product manual.
It strike to me that this wasn’t the first case when I simply ignore the product manual and use Google to find out quickly how stuff works. Only perhaps some programming software I use have help files and manuals that I actually read every now and then. I know some people won’t do that either: they’ll choose to use the online help files to find “function reference of software X”.
There is some need for offline manuals, but I’m using 95% of the time the manuals I find from the Internet, and perhaps only in 5% of the time I rely on the actual offline product manuals.
Is this is also the case for you?
Could we perhaps learn something from this when writing manuals for games? (Such things like: when writing a manual, make sure you have online version too)