Words and Software

Technical writing/user assistance in Microsoft.Azure Intelligent Systems Service (ISS). (old: Data Protection Manager and Operations Manager)

The Read Me file

The Read Me file

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I considered titling this just Read Me so it would be both relevant and a clever imperative reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland. Fortunately, I realized it wasn't all that clever and was possibly even obnoxious, so I clarified it.

This post really is about Read Me files though. On Joel's Design of Software forum, I came across a discussion about the format which included some observations about whether Read Me files were still useful and who the audience is.

I never really thought about them until the question was raised. Not the format question, but whether they're still useful and who are they for and does anyone read them.

I can't recall the last time I actually looked at an application's Read Me. But then, when was the last time I looked at the contents of the installation media? The days are long gone when you opened the floppy to run the install.exe (that was when I would also see the ReadMe.txt in the directory and sometimes take a look at it). Now, setup wizards just launch themselves, or Install Shield does its thing, and I don't need to look at the disc in Explorer.

I remember massive Read Mes -- usually came with games. Basic install instruction Read Mes. Even single sentence Read Mes, because apparently the thought of shipping without a Read Me at all was inconceivable.

We didn't do a Read Me with DPM, and I don't know if any Microsoft product still uses them. We do include Release Notes. Do users read those?

  • >Do users read those?

    No - not really. Only in case of problems, _after_ searching the web and finding the solution that ended in something like "...as statet in the Release Notes"



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