How many times have you wanted to tell a customer, Read the F*cking Manual! Me too – first learning the trade doing tech support in various corporations, then on numerous contracts where I built and documented apps for the some of the same companies, then for my own microISVs product. You can ask, implore, beg, scream, put a gun to their heads: no joy.

So we as microISVs try very, very hard to make our software as easy to use so any doofus with a heartbeat and a credit card can use it. And we still get emails and calls, “How do I open my file again?” You know the definition of crazy is, right? Expecting different results from the same actions.

People. Will. Not. Read. The. Manual. And it’s time to get over it, once and for all, done, kaput, finished.

But people will watch television.

Ever notice how people act in public places where there’s televisions, like airports, hospitals and locker rooms? They cannot help themselves. They can be sitting there, bleeding on the floor, and their eyes will lock onto that picture no matter what. It’s evil, but we can use it.

The bottom line for microISVs today is that manuals, help files and printed documentation is dead, dead, dead. TV is where it’s at baby, so best get with the times.

Fortunately for us in the past couple of years the tools for doing screencasts have gotten extremely easy to use. I mean really, really I have not artistic DNA whatsoever easy. Easy enough to stop wasting time on documentation no one is ever going to read start creating well done productions that trigger the eyeball glue effect.

On the Mac, I got turned on to exactly how to do screencasts there today via this post by none other than Allan Odgaard, creator of [insanely powerful] Textmate who recommends a product called Snapz Pro X. After making a very decent screencast with a voiceover in 2 minutes flat (without ever reading the manual, of course), I ponied up my $69 a moment ago and bought it. That’s one nice app.

For Windows, I’ve long been a fan of TechSmith’s products – I did every screen capture for two books with SnagIt and sprang a while back for Camtasia Studio 4, but never got around to using it because it seemed too complex and I never found time to RTFM.

A quick scan today via Google Blog Search however lead me to a post on TechSmith’s blog by Betsy Weber, TechSmith’s Chief Evangelist (She knows how to do a nice product blog, by the way – copy her.) on the new Camtasia Studio 5’s jaw-dropping new feature: SmartFocus.

When applied, SmartFocus automatically zooms in and out on where the action is on your screen. This makes for a much, much better screencast, and wipes out 9/10s of the work that goes into making a superior demo or video documentation of how something works in your product. Here’s the post where you can see this incredible automatic function in action:

Camtasia Studio 5 will be out in a couple of weeks.

With tools like these around, you can stop muttering RTFM under you breath during 80% of your tech support calls and start gluing their eyes to your product’s screencasts.

One warning though – video can eat up your hosted site’s monthly transfer allowance fast. What to do? That’s a topic for another post here in a few days. Stay tuned!

[tags]microISV, Camtasia Studio 5, Snapz Pro X[/tags]

7 thoughts on “RTFM is so over.

  1. Aha, this is why I keep reading this blog. I had heard of using video to do promotions but not as manuals.

    Wait a sec, I just thought of something, if the customer won’t read the manual how do you get them to search for the correct video and view it. OK, the customer will probably do the viewing, but I am not so sure about the searching.

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