Working mainly with App Server these days, I’ve read a manual or two… I’ve even bought them (my Oracle7 manual set takes about an arm’s worth of bookshelf and almost cost a leg too).

This all changed in 1997 when I loaded the entire database documentation set onto my new toy at the time, a Toshiba Libretto PC (which was about the same size as a hefty novel). Since then I’ve never looked back. Yes, I do periodically print out chunks of manual for reading on the train (as there’s no point keeping them longer than a few months I use all that single-sided junk mail you get), but more often than not I read documentation online. This has the following advantages:

  • you can easily search for terms across several books,
  • you can have several pages/books open at once in different windows,
  • you’ve got the right version for the software you’re running,
  • you can copy and paste any command examples you want to try.

All obvious stuff - so with such easy access to the documentation, why is it you still see lame questions (on Oracle-L, OTN discussion forums, etc) asking how to do such and such? Surely it’s quicker just to look it up… and you don’t have to wait for some kind soul to reply.

The Oracle manuals (and Cisco for that matter) are very comprehensive - yes, there are lots of them but these are complex products. Of course reading the manuals doesn’t solve a problem in itself… just not reading them means you’re more likely make things worse!

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6 Responses to “RTFM - stuff you never wanted to know about reading the manual!”  

  1. 1 Alex Fatkulin


    remember that funny thread on OTN :)

  2. 2 Alex Gorbachev

    Well said. Thanks Simon!

    All obvious stuff - so with such easy access to the documentation, why is it you still see lame questions (on Oracle-L, OTN discussion forums, etc) asking how to do such and such? Surely it’s quicker just to look it up… and you don’t have to wait for some kind soul to reply.

    I can’t resist adding “It’s lame guess-answers that inspire lame questions”.

  3. 3 Charles Schultz

    I agree, the documentation is both vast and comprehensive, in good and bad ways. The authors have gone to amazing lengths to describe, report and analyze how Oracle works. It is a grand day when you can find that little piece of gold buried in the mounds of verbiage.

    I am happy to refer to the documentation, especially if someone can point out a particular section that may be of interest. Trying to find what you are looking for if you have “no clue” may be a wild goose chase, however. For all the good documentation, I have found that errors are not documented well. I look forward to when errors can be cross-referenced with the documentation in a meaningful way (I hate those ora-600 errors that say, “You should never see this, call Oracle Support”).

    The irony to such a thick library is that there are many things that are not documented, so it is easy to come in with the expectation that “everything” is documented and then get a reality check when you cannot find it.

    All in all, the documentation is excellent! The next step in evolution is when they finally put up a wiki. Please, the sooner the better!

  4. 4 Stephen Booth

    My personal view is that Oracle documentation (for the database at least) took a sharp decline after version 7 and is only now starting to recover. The version 7 documentation was clear, explanatory and quickly let you find what you needed to know. Versions 8, 8i and 9i documentation seemed bloated, unclear and to have massive gaping holes. I heard a rumour that version 7 and earlier the documentation was mostly written by techies who either worked on/with the product or had worked on/with the product in the past where as in 8 Oracle brought in a load of technical writers to overhaul the documentation and give it a more professional polish. How true that is I don’t know but I certainly saw a big change between v7 and v8.


  5. 5 Ken Naim

    I find the documentation to serve its purpose quite adequetly however i find the search engines lacking, especially when delaing with some oracle features that use very generic terms as names, unforutently none come to mind at the moment.

  6. 6 hondata

    Loving the look of the site, except for some of the ads that get in the way. Other than that, it is a real pleasure being on here.

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