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NeoOffice :: View topic - Oh for a Decent Manual!
Oh for a Decent Manual!
 
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Lorinda
Captain Mifune


Joined: Jun 20, 2006
Posts: 2051
Location: Midwest, USA

PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2007 7:05 pm    Post subject: Oh for a Decent Manual! Reply with quote

This probably goes without saying, given the tag line of this particular forum, but just to be clear: I'm not attacking anyone here with what I'm about to say. I know full well it's not the fault/responsibility of the Neo community, especially not of the developers. I just need to get it off my chest....


I have spent the better part of today wrestling with Base. It all started when I couldn't enter a new record in my data entry form because the form didn't include a spot for the primary key field. Having used the form wizard (which could have told me I needed to do this!), I had no clue how to add a field to the form, and I didn't find the help very helpful in that regard.

In the process of trying to fix this, I (very stupidly, I admit) ended up deleting the primary key field alltogether, which created no end of problems.
Unable to add a primary key field back in, I had to export the data to a spreadsheet, then reimport it into Base in a new table. In the process of which the Boolean fields turned into text. Since I only had 17 records, I ended up creating new Boolean fields and manually entering the lost data for those fields. Because of various mistakes and problems (including a crash), I ended up exporting and re-importing numerous times.

Only after all of this did I finally figure out how a I could have set the field types while importing (although I swear there were a few times when the right dialog never appeared).

My greatest frustration in all this is the paucity of information about Base that is available. Neither the on-line help nor the Getting Started Guide contained the information that I needed--or at least I couldn't find it.

I learned to use computers and software back in the days when software companies printed comprehensive manuals with (usually) decent indexes. Back in the late 1980's, I created and maintained a relational personel database with some 800 records, all without prior database experience thanks to Double Helix's excellent manuals and innovative choice to use plug-in tiles for formulas. (This was on a "Fat Mac" (as in 512K RAM) and then later a "Mac Plus")

I can learn a lot by playing with a program, but eventually I need a decent manual with good indexes, so I can access the information I need to answer my questions. So far the information available for Base has gaping holes in it, and the terminology is vastly different than what I learned using Double Helix. (ClarisWorks/AppleWorks has been my only other database experience, unless you want to count an absolutely hideous program run on mini computers at my seminary...but that's another story) So much of it seems to assume that you already understand all the terms. And most of the rest never gets past the most basic descriptions of how to create very simple database.

As much as I like searching things online, sometimes I just want a good, thick manual I can hold in my hands and read through cover to cover or search the indexes to find what I need.

Thanks for listening.....
If there actually is a decent manual out there for Base (or even something that would introduce me to the concepts behind this kind of database), please let me know.

Lorinda
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sardisson
Town Crier
Town Crier


Joined: Feb 01, 2004
Posts: 4588

PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2007 8:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are some on the mess of a page that Using your database with NeoOffice, but I have no idea if they're any good or not.

Smokey

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"[...] whether the duck drinks hot chocolate or coffee is irrelevant." -- ovvldc and sardisson in the NeoWiki
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aussie149
The Merovingian


Joined: Feb 12, 2005
Posts: 607
Location: Australia

PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2007 11:47 pm    Post subject: Manual Reply with quote

Hi Lorinda

Your comments are timely for me. I have just spent four hours working on the NeoOffice User Guide, which is close to a v1.0 release. Most of the work I have done today has been on the index. I have almost got on top of this task. And of course as I was working on it I was wondering about just the sorts of things you have articulated. You have encouraged me to be very careful with this work.

FWIW the chapter on Base is chapter 7 on this site.
Peter
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Lorinda
Captain Mifune


Joined: Jun 20, 2006
Posts: 2051
Location: Midwest, USA

PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2007 5:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the responses. I looked at several of the links in the wiki ages ago. The tutorials are helpful for getting started, but not for helping me solve yesterday's conundrum. And the SQL stuff is all over my head. But the link to design resources may prove very helpful--at least in terms of getting my head around the concepts.

And thanks, to you, Peter for all your work on the NeoOffice Guide. I'll take a look at chapter 7. I've tended to assuming that the Getting Started with Base guide is more detailed, but I could be wrong about that.

Part of my grumbling, I think, is related to approaching one of those milestone birthdays. Confused 15-20 years ago I was pretty on top of Macs and Mac software. My work with Double Helix was very innovative from the perspective of the group I created it for; they had been using index cards and typewriters! But financial constraints over the years meant I couldn't keep up with new hardware or software. Until two years ago, our newest computer was a Performa 6320 running system 7. And I've only worked on a Mac OSX machine for a year. Some days I find it very frustrating being so "behind the times." It's a far cry from the days of my youth!
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jgd
Agent Smith


Joined: Feb 27, 2005
Posts: 1531
Location: France

PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2007 7:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't know anything about databases, Lorinda. But you read French without problem Very Happy, thus

You can find a tutorial here (in PDF).
And there is a French FAQ which can help you.

Jacqueline
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LemonAid
The Anomaly


Joined: Nov 21, 2005
Posts: 1285
Location: Witless Protection Program

PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2007 5:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I feel your ... pain. Sad

Base is a new additional to Neo/OOo and there is very little published about it - yet.
This module has the very least amount of documentation.
You will probably have to Search for the underlying base code - HSQLDB and SQL items.

It might help to Google for the underlying database - HSQLDB database engine ( http://hsqldb.org/ )

I'm just going to list some URLs I found (Google OOo + Base)

Database systems are ... "special" Rolling Eyes
They require what I call "Malice of Forethought". Yes, They ARE out to "get you". -- Good Luck --

Philip ( databases often require ... "Special" knowledge! Wink )
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Lorinda
Captain Mifune


Joined: Jun 20, 2006
Posts: 2051
Location: Midwest, USA

PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2007 7:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the links, Philip. I've checked out most of them. A lot of them are either too basic or too advanced for what I need right now, but I'll keep them in mind. The OpenOffice/NeoOffice Guide's chapter 7 is actually better than I realized; I had been relying on the Getting Started Guide, which isn't as good in my mind.

A lot of my rant, though, has to do with my frustration that the whole paradigm for documentation has changed in the last 20 years, and I'm having a hard time with the new way of doing things. As much as I find things like wikis and tutorials helpful in many cases, I still crave a nice big manual I can hold in my hand and search the old-fashioned way. (I got the Missing Manual for Tiger when I bought my iBook and read it cover to cover. I've never been sorry).

I am thinking about getting Solveig Haugland's Databases workbook. And I'll probably use interlibrary loan to track down one of the books on Database design.

Mostly, though, I just needed to vent so I could set my frustration aside and start learning a new way of doing things.

I've done some more work with Base today, and I feel like I'm making progress, even if I did lose the most recent changes to one of my databases today!
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Lorinda
Captain Mifune


Joined: Jun 20, 2006
Posts: 2051
Location: Midwest, USA

PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2007 7:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I realized I forgot to thank you, Jacqueline. I downloaded the tutorial, and the FAQ was helpful--in part because I realized there was an English version.

One of these days I'll turn all I'm learning into a wiki article or two!
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LemonAid
The Anomaly


Joined: Nov 21, 2005
Posts: 1285
Location: Witless Protection Program

PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2007 10:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lorinda wrote:
The OpenOffice/NeoOffice Guide's chapter 7 is actually better than I realized;
I had been relying on the Getting Started Guide, which isn't as good in my mind.
Yes, The OpenOffice.org2.x User Guide is excellent. 500 some pages!

This should be used with the OOoAuthors User Guides - supplements.
    OOoAuthors User Guides for OpenOffice.org 2.x
    http://documentation.openoffice.org/manuals/index.html
    "The OOoAuthors User Guides supplement the OOo User Guide listed above.
    They are available as individual chapters as well as full books. "
    - OOo2.0 Getting Started Guide (2nd edition, 24-Mar-2006) PDF (5.8MB)
    - OOo2.0 Writer Guide (2nd edition, 20-Aug-2006) PDF (8.6MB)
    - OOo2.0 Draw Guide (compiled 26-June-2006; some chapters older) PDF (3.7MB)
    - OOo2.0 Migration Guide (compiled 8-May-2006) PDF (2.3MB)
    _ Notice the lack of an Impress Guide (a individual Chapter is available)
    _ Notice the complete lack of a Base Guide. Sad

    OpenOffice.org 2.x Guides in chapters:
    o Getting Started Guide
    o Writer Guide
    o Calc Guide
    o Draw Guide
    o Impress Guide
    o Migration Guide
That's over 1000 pages of documentation! Shocked
That is more than I have found for a lot of programs available on the Mac, but less that the most popular ones. It's a trade-off.
The module with the very least documentation is Base.
It's basically a brand NEW module, less than a year old. sigh Rolling Eyes

Lorinda wrote:
A lot of my rant, though, has to do with my frustration that the whole paradigm for documentation has changed in the last 20 years, and I'm having a hard time with the new way of doing things. As much as I find things like wikis and tutorials helpful in many cases, I still crave a nice big manual I can hold in my hand and search the old-fashioned way.
Me too! Shocked
I would much prefer to have a good set of "physical" manuals - Getting Started, Basic, and Advanced! (Advanced is usually located on Amazon.com! Wink ) Even a "NeoOffice for ... Dummies!" Shocked
    I guess it takes 3-5 years for an program to be on the market, AND popular, before authors create guides for the different user levels.
    Most OOo modules are approaching ... Maturity. Base module is in its ... infancy?!?
That is why I suggested that you do more research in the "HSQLDB and SQL "(especially MySQL & SQLite) areas.

I understand what you are saying (and strongly agree!).
I have been spending a LOT of time looking for, and reading, documentation for OOo/Neo.
Gems of information are scattered all over the Internet.
The best I can do is to share what I find with others in the community.
Others often find articles I missed and share back. A Win-Win Cool

Philip ( Did he say: "Malice of Forethought?" Wink )
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Lorinda
Captain Mifune


Joined: Jun 20, 2006
Posts: 2051
Location: Midwest, USA

PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2007 7:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

LemonAid wrote:

    I guess it takes 3-5 years for an program to be on the market, AND popular, before authors create guides for the different user levels.
    Most OOo modules are approaching ... Maturity. Base module is in its ... infancy?!?


True enough. But I'm old enough to remember when manuals were published by the software companies and released with the software. Based on some things you've said in the forums here, I'm reasonably sure you are, too. Very Happy But times change; I'm just still getting used to no longer being part of "the younger generation." (And, yes, I know the fact that OOo and Neo are open source is a part of this. But many commercial software companies don't produce manuals anymore, either.)

LemonAid wrote:

That is why I suggested that you do more research in the "HSQLDB and SQL "(especially MySQL & SQLite) areas.


Yeah, I may have to do that eventually. So far the links in that regard I've looked at are all too intimidating for me. Lots of terms I don't know, and a whole way of thinking that is natural for folks who write code, but for someone hasn't done any programming since playing around with BASIC in Jr. High and High School--20+ years ago--it's rather foreign.

Thanks for the dialog. I'm feeling much better about this all. Having been able to reframe the problem, I'm now eager to tackle a new challenge; I just have to be careful that I don't let it get in the way of the work I'm supposed to be doing. Laughing
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pluby
The Architect
The Architect


Joined: Jun 16, 2003
Posts: 11882
Location: California, USA

PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2007 9:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lorinda wrote:
True enough. But I'm old enough to remember when manuals were published by the software companies and released with the software. Based on some things you've said in the forums here, I'm reasonably sure you are, too. Very Happy But times change; I'm just still getting used to no longer being part of "the younger generation." (And, yes, I know the fact that OOo and Neo are open source is a part of this. But many commercial software companies don't produce manuals anymore, either.)


Actually, this is really about money. My theory, based on my experience back in the '80s and '90s, was that ten years ago, the only place you could buy software was pretty much a retail store. To fill the store shelves and "catch the consumer's eye", they put the software in big pretty boxes. Having printed manuals not only added a "solid" feel and weight to the box, but it solved the problem that in pre-CD days putting the manual on disk was not very practical.

Once the CD came along, manuals moved to the CD and the boxes got smaller. Then internet purchasing became common and trimming the box size came next.

Finally, open source put enormous pressure on companies to drive down the cost of software since the competition was more or less zero cost. Ten years ago, even the simplest little software cost US$30.00 and was commonly around US$100. To cut costs, many smaller software companies shed more and more documentation and quality assurance in order to make a profit at a much lower price.

Look at NeoOffice as a case in point. It is free so we employee zero technical writers or testers. Documentation and thorough testing is necessary, but you can't spend money that you will never recover so you drop this work. I assume most other companies came to a similar conclusion and have largely done the same.

Patrick
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LemonAid
The Anomaly


Joined: Nov 21, 2005
Posts: 1285
Location: Witless Protection Program

PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2007 4:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lorinda wrote:
True enough. But I'm old enough to remember when manuals were published by the software companies and released with the software.
Based on some things you've said in the forums here, I'm reasonably sure you are, too. Very Happy But times change; I'm just still getting used to no longer being part of "the younger generation."
Grin
I'm not "older", I just have more ... hind-sight! Cool
I'm not ... Old, there are just so many "young" folks, pushing me up! Rolling Eyes
I looked in the mirror the other day and wondered who that person was! Shocked

Lorinda wrote:
Thanks for the dialog.
I'm feeling much better about this all. Having been able to reframe the problem, I'm now eager to tackle a new challenge; I just have to be careful that I don't let it get in the way of the work I'm supposed to be doing.
It was my pleasure to ... dialog. Helps me to ... Vent too. "A burden shared is lighter for all!"
I KNOW what you mean. Sometimes I have to much fun "dialoging" on Trinity. Guess "work" gets in the way of other pleasures!

pluby wrote:
Finally, open source put enormous pressure on companies to drive down the cost of software since the competition was more or less zero cost. Ten years ago, even the simplest little software cost US$30.00 and was commonly around US$100.
To cut costs, many smaller software companies shed more and more documentation and quality assurance in order to make a profit at a much lower price.

Look at NeoOffice as a case in point. It is free so we employee zero technical writers or testers. Documentation and thorough testing is necessary, but you can't spend money that you will never recover so you drop this work. I assume most other companies came to a similar conclusion and have largely done the same.

Patrick
How True!
I work in Data/Document Management and the pressure to reduce costs is enormous. Many of our contracts have dropped Training and/or Documentation altogether. Shocked
Technical Writers and Document Editors are almost all gone. It's "ass-u-me'd" that Developers and Programmers can/will write what documentation is required. ROFL (and kicking) and LMAO
Testing and QA is still "required" to deliver our products, but they always seems to take a back seat to other actions. Embarassed

It's nice that the Web allows more information to be published, but dedicated efforts to publish program documentation has been reduced. Disappeared in some cases.
That is one reason I am so excited about the few gems I find for Neo/OOo. Someone has to spend a lot of time and effort ( usually without financial reward) to generate what we have. The Neo Community is AMAZingly luck to have the contributors it has! THANKS ALL!

Philip ( I can't write documentation (well), but I can edit the heck out of it! Wink )

\. Engineer by degree, Computer geek by choice!
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OPENSTEP
The One
The One


Joined: May 25, 2003
Posts: 4752
Location: Santa Barbara, CA

PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2007 5:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

LemonAid wrote:
I work in Data/Document Management and the pressure to reduce costs is enormous. Many of our contracts have dropped Training and/or Documentation altogether. Shocked
Technical Writers and Document Editors are almost all gone. It's "ass-u-me'd" that Developers and Programmers can/will write what documentation is required.


AHAHA I worked at a company that was under that impression as well. The engineers pushed it too. After a year or two they finally rehired technical writers since the engineers didn't exactly have english degrees...Wink

ed
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