This guide contains information and instructions for the person or persons in charge of maintaining a system at a higher level than most users. The Admin has access to all features and functions of a software product and is the one who sets and grants access to all others into the system.
API documentation describes the services a given API offers as well as how to use those services, covering everything the user would need to know in order to programmatically interface via that API.
Configuration Guides contain technical setup information for complex software that is typically enterprise, multi-server software-based. Config guides are aimed at system administrators and network configurators.
Database Administrator Guide
The Database Admin guide provides database administrators with information creating, maintaining, backing up, and recovering databases, as well as instructions for defining various types of users, authorizing user access, and working with different types of database objects.
Documentation Plan is used to schedule and allocate resources to create and maintain technical content deliverables for a specified project or product. The plan describes the audiences, content types and output media, and provides a schedule for development and completion of deliverables.
Error Message Guide
An Error Message Guide lists error messages by category, sorted by error name or number, including the error description, associated warnings, possible remediation options (solutions), as well as other resources where available.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are listed questions and answers, sometimes grouped by category, that presuppose commonly asked questions (or by research and actual interaction) and provide best answers in an attempt to minimize Support or Sales interaction while improving customer satisfaction.
A functional specification (or functional “spec”) is a formal document used to describe in detail for software developers a product’s intended capabilities, appearance, and interactions with users, while specifying the functions that a system or component must perform (often part of a requirements specification). Used in software development methodology known as “Waterfall” (as opposed to “Agile”).
A glossary lists and defines, and cross-references, all terms used in the product or product field relevant to the product’s usage and understanding. Terms can be (but not necessarily are) modified for the specific application being described and thus narrowed from a more general definition to a more specific one.
How-to Guide (“mini-guide”)
“How To” guides are typically short (under 10 or so pages) and illustrated with drawings and photos throughout. They typically have a targeted audience and often (but not always) have a call to action (CTA) at the end for something to buy.
Installation Guide (Software)
A software installation guide provides step-by-step instructions for installing software onto a local or network computer or server and contains all necessary technical data to ensure success, including prerequisites and supporting software and hardware.
An instruction manual is a booklet supplied with consumer products such as vehicles, home appliances, computer peripherals, and so on, which contains written guidelines informing how to use it, as well as troubleshooting instructions and warrantee information.
Integrated (“Pop up”) Help
Important “real time” information can be communicated to users with an integrated “pop up” (sometimes called “inline”) help box on the screen, differentiated from the main UI by the box and the coloring of the box. The help can be dismissed by the user at any time. Integrated help saves the user from having to leave the software, call the help, and search the documentation for instructions.
Online Help System
Online help is topic-oriented, procedural or reference information delivered through computer software. It is a form of user assistance. Most online help is designed to give assistance in the use of a software application or operating system, but can also be used to present information on a broad range of subjects.
A Programmer’s Guide shows the details of how the language works and explaining why it works the way it does. A Programmer’s Guide covers the basic concepts, providing a foundation for programmers new to the language, as well as more advanced programming concepts and techniques.
Quick Reference Guide or Card
A Quick Reference Guide/card (also known as simply a Reference Card) contains condensed information about a specific topic, such as commands and keys for a particular computer application, programming language, or for an appliance or device, or for a given topic such as Algebra, Chemistry, and so on. The guide can be a paper guide or can be online.
Quick Start Guide
A Quick Start guide is a short, simple introductory guide for understanding, and getting up to speed quickly with, a software product. It is aimed at the end user and is typically less than 50 pages long, most often in the 10 – 25 page range. (Not to be confused with a Quick Reference Guide, which is often just a single sheet of information, sometimes two-sided.)
A README file contains information about other files in a directory or archive of computer software. A form of documentation, it is usually a simple plain text file called READ.ME or README.TXT. These days, the file is often just as well a PDF file or an HTML web page.
A Reference Guide, or manual, (sometimes called a “Systems Reference Manual” or a “Technical Reference Manual”) is a guide that contains information organized in a summary manner similar to a dictionary. It differs from a User’s Guide in that no procedures (step-by-step instructions) are included. Only references to, and descriptions of, such things as UI elements (fields and field names for example), report elements (report headings and fields, etc.), programming language elements (expressions, objects, syntax, etc.) are included.
Release notes are documents that are distributed with software products, sometimes when the product is still in the development or test state (e.g., a beta release). For products that have already been in use by clients, the release note is delivered to the customer when an update is released.
A Requirements Doc, also known as a Technical Requirements Doc, is a typical part of any project to create or revise a software system, or other types of tangible products. A Requirements Doc outlines the functional, performance, security and other system requirements.
An SDK guide contains complete listings of all the classes, objects, methods, and functions available across all the parts of the software being called/integrated with. The intended audience is experienced programmers, ideally familiar with the product that the SDK was created for.
Technical (Tech) Note
A technical note is a short article (a page or two) giving a brief description of a specific issue, problem, new feature or technique, or specific instructions not applicable to standard documentation (such as platform or device-specific instructions) or rare-case instructions.
A technical report (also known as a scientific report) describes the process, progress, and/or results (most typically, all three) of a research project. Recommendations and conclusions of the research are also often included
A technical specification is a document that defines a set of requirements that a software application must meet or exceed. Items (features or functions) of an application that does not meet all of the specifically expressed requirements does not meet the specification, and often is referred to as being out of specification or “out of spec.”
A Training Manual is the main delivery source for training users on how to use a software application or system in conjunction a stand-up trainer in a live classroom setting (either in person or online). The manual can also be used post-training as a self-study tool for reference purposes.
A Troubleshooting Guide contains a list of potential problems, which are often phrased in the form of a question. The basic theory of troubleshooting is that you start with the most general (and often most obvious) possible problems, and then narrow it down to more specific issues, using the process of elimination.
A Tutorial Document guides a user step by step in exploring the various features and functions of a software application, similar to a Training Manual. Unlike a Training Manual, however, a Tutorial is meant to be followed as a self-teaching tool.
An Upgrade Guide, or Upgrade Manual, guides a user through the process of planning and executing an application upgrade, either locally or across a network. The guide typically provides such information as prerequisites, version information, compatibility, change information, and so on.
User Guide/User Manual
A user guide or user’s guide, also commonly known as a manual, is a technical communication document intended to give assistance to people using a particular system.
User Requirements Doc (aka Requirements Doc)
The user requirement(s) document (URD) or user requirement(s) specification is a document usually used in software engineering that specifies what the user expects the software to be able to do.
User Training Plan (Training Plan)
A Training Plan outlines the objectives, needs, strategy, and curriculum to be addressed when training users on the new or enhanced information system.
Includes everything from assembly Instructions, hardware datasheets, illustrated parts lists, instillation instructions, schematic diagrams, repair manuals, safety guidelines, etc.
A sheet or pages, complete with detailed illustrations, showing and describing how to assemble a product. Assembly Instructions can be simple or complex, depending on the item needing assembly.
A datasheet, sometimes called a “sell sheet” is a single sheet (one-sided or two- sided) that lists the functionality of a given piece of hardware (such as a printer) or component (such as a replacement cartridge). While there can be marketing language in the sheet, selling is kept to a minimum other than what the quality of the workmanship (parts, technical specs, assembly processes) implies.
Installation Instructions contain detailed, step-by-step instructions for installing a device or piece of hardware. It includes parts and tools required and always includes illustrations and/or photos to help explain the installation process.
ISO Compliance Sheet
An ISO Compliance Sheet, such as an ISO 9001 sheet, addresses various aspects of quality management and contains evidence that the given ISO (International Standards Organization) has been or is being complied with.
A Maintenance Guide (also called a Service Manual) provides procedures and guidelines for maintaining a device or system. It focuses on equipment, materials, techniques, and other information needed to carry out maintenance activities of the unit. Some Maintenance Guides are aimed at the end user/customer; others are designed to be used by licensed service professionals, with differing levels of detail and technical complexity.
Operating Instructions (or “Operators Manual”) provide operators with detailed information on how to safely use a given tool, device, or vehicle.
An owner’s manual is a book of information and instructions that a person receives along with the purchase of a particular product, advanced consumer products such as vehicles, home appliances and computer peripherals. But these days, there are “owner’s manuals” for pets, babies, kids, and other non-technical “objects.”
A Repair Manual (sometimes called a Service Manual) is a book provided by the manufacturer with instructions on how to keep a vehicle, machine, etc. working properly at different points in its life. The manual covers the servicing, maintenance, and repair of the product.
Safety guidelines are advisory and informational in content. They are not new standards or regulations, but rather best practices concerning equipment or processes.
A wiring guide contains instructions, illustrations, and warnings for wiring up equipment, appliances, and networks (although network wiring is more typically handled by a network guide). These guides typically contain few words, and many illustrations.
Comparison charts include side-by-side product features against one or more competitors with the obvious intent of demonstrating the superiority of the chart creator’s product(s). Can also be used to compare a company’s different offerings to each other (to show what is included/not included in each version).
Product Data Sheet
Data sheets give the details of a product in a compact (typically single page, one- or tow-sided) format. Graphics are used, but often not beyond the company logo and one additional graphic, such as a product photo or software screenshot. Tables are heavily utilized. (Can be used for software, hardware, or other products.)
A style guide (or manual of style) is a set of standards for the writing and design of documents, either for general use or for a specific publication, organization, or field. (It is often called a style sheet, though that term has other meanings.) A style guide establishes and enforces style to improve communication.
A whitepaper is a persuasive, authoritative, in-depth report on a specific topic that presents a problem and provides a solution. While businesses create whitepapers to educate their market about a particular issue or explain and promote a particular methodology, they are basically marketing and sales collateral hidden behind an authoritative appearance.
An Errata is a correction of a published text. An erratum is most commonly issued shortly after its original text is published. Patches to security issues in a computer program are also sometimes called errata.
A handbook is a type of reference work, or other collection of instructions, that is intended to provide ready reference. It is typically a small book that gives useful information about a particular subject structured for quick reference. For example, a guidebook for travelers.
Research Report (Scientific, Medical, Lab, etc.)
A research report is a document prepared by an expert, scientist, specialist, etc. (or group/team of the same) that typically contains multiple charts, graphs, references, appendices, and footnotes/endnotes.
Social Media Post
An informational post of text with optional links, pictures, or videos, giving an update, announcement, observations, or other information, into a social media platform such as Facebook. Twitter, Instagram, and so on.
A website is a collection of related web pages, including multimedia content, typically identified with a common domain name, and published on at least one web server. A web page is what you see on the screen when you type in a web address, click on a link, or put a query in a search engine.
A Wiki article, or entry, is a wiki page that has encyclopedic information on it (thus the name, “Wikipedia”). It is intended to be authoritative and therefore should be factual and verified, not opinion, even within an internal wiki system.