Generally, documentation is divided into two parts ? user documentation, and technical documentation.
User documentation is generally provided to help the average computer user with a software programme or hardware installation. It might be instructional or tutorial style material, such as explaining how to do a particular bit of word processing, or how to write a programme using Visual Basic or Java. It may also be documentation to describe to a person how to install a piece of hardware such as a CD-ROM or CD burner, or how to connect up a modem to the Internet.
Documentation can also be for training purposes, such as this document that you are currently reading, or the practical student workbooks that complement this theoretical data file.
Generally, there are two ways that the information can be provided to a user ? in hard copy format, such as printed out, or in an on-line format.
The choice of the format is increasingly towards on-line documentation, basically because it is a lot cheaper for the manufacturer, as the information does not have to be printed out, reproduced and bound together into a neat format. Rather it can be saved onto a floppy disk or CD-ROM, and mass-produced quite efficiently and cost-effectively. Usability is often a factor as well, though, as many users might prefer to have the information printed out and sitting in front of them so that they can flip through it in any order, skipping from one topic to another, rather than being restricted to having to go through a menu-type system. Also, with a paper-based document, it is easier to see what is contained within the document, whereas with the on-line help, it is difficult to know what topics are covered in the document.
Increasingly nowadays, documentation is not only...