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Will Printed User Manuals Become Extinct?

Posted by ClickHelp TeamClickHelp Teamin Technical Writing on 10/19/2017 — 2 minute read

Online Help

It is hard to imagine now that people will be ever going back to living thier lives without the Internet. Being offline will soon disappear as a concept. The IOT is about to burst, and this will finally settle ‘being online’ as equal to ‘being alive’.

Our newspapers, TV shows, family pictures, work…Everything is just hanging up there in the clouds. Same goes for user guides and knowledge bases.

In general, technical documentation is a crucial resource for users as it can help them acquire knowledge about a product or a service. It is the main interface your audience can appeal to if they want to understand the specifics of your product better.

Whether it is a user guide for a professional camera or an online knowledge base for software, people need a manual that they can easily browse through, is easy to comprehend, and provides them with the answers they need.

But, if straightforward things like a medicine’s prospect work just fine on paper when it comes to technical documentation the amount of information you need to provide is often so large that it’s best to make them available online.

Paper vs. the Internet

Until now, people had no problem reading manuals and documentation on paper. But, with the increase of online help authoring, both users and technical writers are beginning to realize that online is faster, easier and better.

Paper Vs Internet

As a result, having an online documentation portal is now more of a requirement than an extra feature. The advantages of online documentation over paper documentation are overwhelming:

  • Browsing through online documentation takes a matter of seconds if you implement a proper menu and search function. Introducing categories for large volume documentation is an excellent way of speeding up the browsing for your users.
  • An online knowledge base makes it easier to stay up to date with the latest features and changes. That can make a significant difference for companies that use fast changing protocols and time-pressured production processes.

  • Technical writing becomes increasingly appealing – thanks to graphics tools, visual design guidelines, and multimedia options. Some users prefer watching a video tutorial while others understand the written text better. By covering all these channels, you cater to everyone’s needs.
  • Your content becomes interactive. By being online, you get feedback from your audience faster and easier, allowing you to respond in time to their questions and requests. You can also follow on the strong and weak points of your content and see what needs to be detailed or summarized.

To summarize, online documentation is better because it can improve efficiency and in a short time. Paper documentation, on the other hand, is less flexible and harder to improve.

Online Help Authoring Tools

You no longer need to know programming or coding since the online help authoring tool/service does that for you. The interface is user-friendly and helps you build engaging structures in your documentation, like FAQ sections, tables of contents, tag clouds and maps, images and many other helpful features that will improve the efficiency of your content.


Another important feature of most online authoring tools is that they automatically adapt your content to multiple devices, so you don’t have to waste time on that anymore.

With these arguments in mind, it is not hard to see why most job requirements for technical writers include knowing or being willing to work with online authoring tools.

There are some help authoring tools which are…less material? Check out this post on top 7 help authoring tools that you might already have at hand, you just need to make a good use of them.


It’s high time we answered the question – will printed user manuals extinct? Well, it is not going to happen in the near future. But, there’s certainly a trend, a very prominent one – the Internet is winning over position that seemed unreachable for it before. Like technical documentation.

Online user manuals are not anything extraordinary nowadays. On the contrary, they are an absolute must have.

Good Luck with your technical writing!
ClickHelp Team
Online Documentation & Technical Writing Tools

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