I have written about the wonderful, often free or nearly so writing and documentation tools. Yet the trend I am seeing in documentation is more and more of less and less. Or maybe its more just-in-time documentation.

Lets take a look at recent evidence:
Macromedia Captivate – succinct (no screenshots or graphics) getting started guide, relatively terse online help, no other printed or electronic documentation with the software. Good website documentation for the product although not completely up to speed yet.
Corel Painter IX – dropped one of the best written manuals in the graphics world and replaced it with a very good Getting Started Guide. I had hoped for the latter to join with the former. Too bad.
Sun Java Studio Creator – good, but somewhat dated book on JSC-Java Studio Creator but all other documentation is electronic, most on the Web. This is where printed books with a Table of Contents, quick flip through capability and Index put electronic documentation to shame. This “look about capability” is especially important with a new product like JSC.
Windows XP SP2 – ditto problem except all electronic documentation. Fairly good web based resources but they are smeared over Microsoft and third party sites. For a crucial update it is hard to get your hands on anything – printed cheatsheets have appeared at several IT shops I know of.
Adobe Photoshop CS and Jasc PaintShop Pro 9 – both vendors agree on one thing: a great printed users manual certainly does help to keep on top of these virtuoso programs and all their whats new upgrades. Congratulations to both vendors.

So what is going on here ? Is electronic documentation and/or no documentation (because you can find it on our community website or in 3rd party books) the New documentation marching orders ? I though software was going to be replaced by service and support. Or do we really need an annual subscription model to get good documentation and support ? Or has software reached a plateau in which the incremental improvements are small; the GUI interfaces are so intuitive, familiar and easy to operate and the availability of the Web so prevalent with its “GoogleHelp” – that really good docs are like the dodo – redundant and therefore extinct?

(c)JBSurveyer (shoooosh, dont tell the spammers but this article is open for comment)