/ Shopping, Technology

Do you miss printed instruction manuals?

Tablet and book

Is our relationship with new technology all the more fraught now that printed instruction manuals seem to have been confined to room 101?

One of the greatest evolutions in tech products has been how much smaller and lighter they’ve become with every subsequent generation. And this year’s slimmest laptops and tablets will no doubt look corpulent compared to what’s coming next.

But in an effort to slim down what’s inside the packaging when you first take out your new device, it seems a little extra weight has also been shaved off. I’m talking about the instruction manuals that you’ll no longer find tucked inside.

Tablets are great once you’re up and running with them. But it’s no fun being left to figure it all out for yourself when the manufacturer has stinted on the printing and left you to find a manual online, or to print one out for yourself.

Missing printed instruction manuals

When my colleague Andrew Laughlin wrote about the disappearance of printed instruction manuals, 60% of you voted that you couldn’t live without them. Only 8% of voters said they could. Hazel commented at the time:

‘I have a digital camera (not a point-and-shoot, quite a complex piece of equipment) where the only manual provided was on a CD. That’s not much use when I’m out taking photos!’

Although the following isn’t much help if you don’t know how to use your tablet, Terfar had this advice:

‘Any important manual that I need, I usually download the PDF version to my tablet and use a tablet’s pdf app or the Kindle app to read and navigate it. Currently I have the manuals/handbooks for my new car, smart TV, washing machine, bridge camera, mobile phone and the tablet’s own manual sitting on my tablet. The pdf versions are usually easier to navigate, have a search function, don’t get lost, don’t wear out and don’t use trees. Win. Win. Win. Win.’

Neville responded to Terfar:

‘Jolly good – if you’ve got a tablet. Personally I haven’t got one and I wouldn’t want to lug it about on wildlife trips. Gimme the manual manual – in ONLY my language please.’

Getting help to use tech

We’ve put together a number of helpful videos on how to use your tablet, from the initial set up to navigating menus and installing apps. But I thought I’d leave you with this little piece of advice from JR:

‘My youngest daughter once replied to my email asking what on earth she was talking about with a step-by-step set of instructions on how to text on our newly acquired first mobile phone. The last line in the instructions was “should you still be struggling, ask any passing eleven year old”. Maybe that’s the best bit of advice for all of us over 70.’

Do you miss printed instruction manuals? Even if you do get hold of a manual, do you still find they’re full of jargon and hard to understand?


I agree that printed manuals are preferable to on-line or .pdf versions. If you’re a keen outdoor photographer like me, you’ll know that looking at and searching an online document on a sunny mountain is virtually impossible! That’s one reason why I stick with Pentax cameras, which come with excellent, compact, English-language-only Op Guides which go everywhere with me.

Diana says:
29 February 2016

Yes I definitely miss product manuals, much easierand quicker to use than having to search online.

I became so frustrated with wading through all the different sections of manuals in various languages when looking for that necessary piece of information that I quickly appreciated the benefit of online manuals.

I think printed manuals should be mandatory for all software. What is the use of a manual on CD when you are struggling with new software; you may not be in a position to open a new window and so have to close one application to read and understand the manual by which time you may well have forgotten the original problem.

If companies insist on manuals on CD then at least they should give the option of printing the topic i8n question, or even the whole manual.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Eugene Popplewell says:
10 May 2021

The greatest scammers of this world must certainly be the government and the BBC. So don’t expect any justice.