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Questions & Answers about the Manual


Introduction

Reunion 8 includes an electronic manual, not a printed manual. We think it's the very finest electronic documentation and help system available -- a friendly, fast, and effective way to answer your questions and help you learn about Reunion.

How does it work?

In Reunion, you open the manual in one of four ways:

Use the Manual button on the toolbar. This opens a window called Search the Manual.

Click the ? button in the lower-left corner of any window. This opens the manual to a page relevant to what you were doing when you clicked the ?

Choose an item from the Help menu. This takes you to key spots in the manual.

Press Command-? on the keyboard.

A simple window appears where you type some key words and click a Search button.

The results of your search for help are quickly summarized and sorted using a model similar to the results provided by a good internet search engine.

Why isn't there a typical Index in the new Manual?

Reunion 8 uses a better and faster indexing system which is more likely to find what you seek. It's more efficient than picking up a book, thumbing through pages, and dragging your eyes across hundreds of alphabetized words.

Internally, Reunion keeps track of every important word in the entire manual. When you initiate a search, Reunion finds all the manual pages containing the keywords you specified. The more words you enter, the more your search is narrowed and focused.

Reunion sorts all the matches according to their relevance, and returns a list of the top 25 "hits." As you can see in the example above, the "results" provide a link to the correct manual page, the title of the manual page, the subtopic, and a portion of the actual text from the manual, to help you decide which link to follow. It looks and feels similar to the Internet search engines we all use, although much faster and without any advertisements or distracting animations. All of this happens in seconds!

How do I "dogear" pages?

You can create bookmarks in the manual. While viewing a manual page that you would like to "dogear," simply choose Add Bookmark from the Bookmarks button on the toolbar.

Do you plan to create a printed manual?

No.

Why didn't you create an electronic manual AND a printed manual?

Because the two systems are structured, designed, and authored in completely different ways. It's impossible to take one format and stuff it into the other. Except for bedroom or bathroom reading, the new electronic manual exceeds the utility of a printed manual.

Do you plan to create a PDF version of the manual?

No. Our goal is to provide a great on-screen documentation and help system. PDF's strength is in printed output. It's weakness is on-screen viewing -- just the opposite of our priority. In our opinion, the primary function of PDF files is to provide a cross-platform file format suitable for high-resolution printing. PDF is great when you need to send a floorplan to somebody. However, our goal was to provide an on-screen manual.

In a nutshell, the entire manual would require restructuring and reformatting in order to create a PDF version.

Here are some other reasons we don't use PDF for Reunion's manual...

  1. Opening and scrolling through PDF files is much slower than working with Reunion's documentation files.
  2. PDF files require Adobe Acrobat Reader, a reader application from a single vendor, Adobe.
  3. PDF files can't be indexed in a manner which permits flexible seaching, such as the type of logical AND searches used in Reunion's electronic manual (and those used by the better Internet Search Engines) where word order is immaterial to the search. To our knowledge, PDF also doesn't support more advanced search technology such as word stemming and relevancy ranking.
  4. In our opinion, PDF files do not encourage non-linear reading and learning.
  5. Beyond simple zooming, the appearance of a PDF file is inflexible. For example, you can't change the font or font size. When you resize a window, PDF text does not reflow to support different size windows. Rather, PDF could be described as a "picture" of a printed page.
  6. PDF files are much larger than Reunion's documentation files.
  7. It's not very difficult to create PDF versions of documents that are designed to be printed. But it's very difficult to create a PDF version of a document that was designed to be viewed on screen.
  8. PDF files require considerable time and resources to print.

I hate online documentation!

The truth is that we have never liked any online manual or help system -- until we created the system that accompanies Reunion. We believe that we have done a superior job in implementing our electronic manual and search facility. To reiterate, we feel that the new manual exceeds the utility of a printed manual. It finds answers faster, more accurately, and in a more "helpful" fashion.

Like you, we have seen lots of lousy online help systems, and we have learned from the shortcomings of others. We ask that you keep an open mind and avoid deploring what you haven't taken the time to test drive.

In Reunion, when you run into a problem or need additional information, you can find what you need very quickly and easily. There's no more interruption to your work flow than a printed manual demands. In fact, there is less interruption. No need to page slowly through each and every unimportant area to find what is being sought. You simply tell Reunion what you need help with (such as "adopted children," "linking spouses," "leap years," etc.), and Reunion will instantly bring the answers to you.

Can I browse the manual, just to get ideas about using the software?

Yes! We understand that many people use documentation not just to find out how to do the task of the moment, but to discover things you didn't know you wanted to do -- to get ideas about features you weren't aware of. Reunion's documentation is neatly cross-referenced, encouraging non-linear avenues of exploration. Instead of seeing "see page 34.2 for more information on marking cards," the new manual simply underlines the word "marking" and you can click the word to get more detail on marking cards -- if you desire. Cross referencing also eliminates redundant definitions in the documentation.

Can I learn about new features in version 8 without a printed guide?

Yes. Just open Reunion and choose Help -> New Features.

What other benefits are provided by the electronic manual?

  • The manual is visually appealing with tasteful use of color images, text, graphics, and captions. We applied the same design skills and philosophy to this manual that we used to create Reunion and all previous highly-acclaimed printed Reunion manuals.
  • You can open multiple pages and topics simultaneously.
  • The manual can easily and instantly be updated. When we post maintenance updates on our web site, it's simple to include a manual updater too. You can download and run the manual updater, and you have up-to-date documentation. This benefit also lets us create new material and examples based on feedback from users. If somebody tells us they had trouble finding help on a particular item, we can implement changes for the next maintenance update to make sure the next user won't stumble over a similar roadblock.
  • Information in the manual is linked to related Internet resources on our site and other sites. For example, instead of mentioning Epson's web site for updated print drivers, we include a link that takes you there. Also, the manual provides links for genealogical resources, such as information about the calendar systems, etc.

Can I view Reunion and the manual at the same time?

Yes. Instead of seeing Reunion on-screen and the manual in your lap or next to the keyboard, you'll see Reunion in one window and the manual in another window. You can resize the windows and see both simultaneously, or let them overlap and flip between them with a mouseclick.

Is an electronic manual more difficult for new users?

In most cases, no -- because typical new computer users don't like a program that requires them to read a thick manual. You don't have to read a manual when you buy a car or a TV. Required reading scares new users. It's more natural to open the software and start playing with it. You can certainly do that with Reunion. Reunion's reputation was built because it is easy to use for the beginner, yet sophisticated enough for those who need power.