A user guide, also commonly known as a manual, is a technical communication document intended to give assistance to people using a particular system. It is usually written by a technical writer, although user guides could be written by programmers, product or project managers, or other technical staff, particularly in smaller companies.
User guides are most commonly associated with electronic goods, computer hardware and software.
Most user guides contain both a written guide and the associated images. In the case of computer applications it is usual to include screenshots of how the program should look, and hardware manuals often include clear, simplified diagrams. The language is written to match up with the intended audience with jargon kept to a minimum or explained thoroughly.
The usual sections of a user manual often include:
- A Coverpage
- A titlepage and copyright page
- A preface, containing details of related documents and information on how to best use the user guide
- A contents page
- A guide on how to use at least the main functions of the system
- A troubleshooting section detailing possible errors or problems that may occur along with how to fix them
- A FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
- Where to find further help and contact details
- A glossary and, for larger documents, an index
Car owner's manual
All new cars come with an owner's manual from the manufacturer. Most owners leave them in the glove compartment
for easy reference. This can make their frequent absence in rental cars
frustrating because it violates the driver's user expectations
, as well as makes it difficult to use controls that aren't understood, which is not good because understanding control operation of an unfamiliar car is one of the first steps recommended in defensive driving
. Owner's manuals usually cover three main areas - a description of the location and operation of all controls, a schedule and descriptions of maintenance required, both by the owner and by a mechanic, and specifications such as oil and fuel capacity and part numbers of lighbulbs used.
Current car owner's manuals have become much bigger in part due to many safety warnings most likely designed to avoid product liability lawsuits, as well as from ever more complicated audio and navigational systems, which often have their own manual.