Printed Manuals. Most software and hardware products feature some sort of printed documentation, although printed manuals are used less frequently now than in the past. At the least, most commercial products include a short "getting started" manual, which offers guidance on installation or basic use. More complex products, like those developed for use in corporate information systems, may include multiple printed manuals with hundreds of pages.
Online Documents and Help Systems. In recent years, manufacturers have begun providing users with online documentation rather than printed manuals because electronic documents are less expensive to produce. This point is especially important for companies that develop their own software tools for in-house use. For these businesses, printing documentation can be a time-consuming and expensive process.
Depending on the product, documentation may be developed for different types of users, based on the expertise or experience:
User Guides. These are designed for end users--people who use the product simply to perform specific tasks. Generally, user documentation is tutorial in nature, providing step-by-step instructions, lots of illustrations, and little or no explanatory text.
Reference Manuals. These manuals may be developed for various users. Instead of providing step-by-step instructions, reference manuals include detailed descriptions of commands, features, and capabilities as well as glossaries of special terms.
Technical Reference Guides. Intended for high-level users or developers who will customize the product or develop other applications to work with the product, these guides are filled with technical details and are generally of little interest to end users.
Installation Guides. These are designed to lead the user or administrator through the installation process. For many products, installation is a simple matter requiring little or no documentation. For complex products, however, especially those designed to work with corporate networks and database management systems, installation is filled with potential pitfalls. In these cases, detailed installation guides attempt to describe and resolve any problems the user may encounter.
Configuration Guides. These guides are important references for high-level users or administrators who must change system settings to make the product work as desired.
Administration Guides. These guides are written for system administrators who must ensure that the product works in tandem with all the other products in the information system, such as the operating system, network operating system, and DBMS.
Other specialized types of documentation include troubleshooting guides, technical specifications, and performance-assessment guides.
Computing Issues That Affect Us All
Our legal system is gradually developing a legal framework for working with computers and working on the Internet. The most prevalent breach of law in cyberspace is software piracy, or the illegal copying or use of a program. Several types of copy protection schemes can be used to stop or slow down pirates.
A computer virus is a parasitic program that can replicate itself, infect computers, and destroy data. Viruses are most commonly spread by infected disks and when users download infected files over a network or from the Internet. A new breed of e-mail viruses is spread via files attached to e-mail messages or in the body of an e-mail message. Users can protect their data and software by using an antivirus program and by keeping the program's virus definitions up to date.
Computer-related theft is a costly problem for organizations and individual users, especially those who use portable computers. Many companies literally lock their computer systems with anti-theft devices. Software theft is a common problem in organizations where software is left unattended. Companies can combat the problem by keeping software in a locked storage location and overseeing its installation on individual computers. Data theft is perhaps the greatest concern to organizations. Hackers steal data by accessing a computer's disks over a network. In addition to stealing data, hackers have been known to destroy data, crash computer networks, and steal funds electronically. Organizations can protect the data on their networks by taking appropriate security measures. Basic measures include requiring users to provide identification and passwords before accessing the network. More sophisticated measures include encrypting data to make it unusable to anyone without the proper decoding key.