Finding Apple's missing User Guides

Today's Apple gear doesn't come with any more documentation than is absolutely necessary, but that doesn't mean that Apple skimps on the user guides.

Many years ago, when I bought my first Mac, it was accompanied by a beautiful manual that gave me color instructions for how to hook it up, turn it on, and run the software included in the box. The documentation that came with that Mac and many Apple devices that followed set the bar for what I and countless other Apple users expected when we bought new hardware. 

The documentation was important. For many users, it was their first experience with a computer, let alone a Mac. They needed to understand how the mouse moved the cursor on the screen, how the keyboard worked, what "click the mouse button" meant.

These days most of us have enough experience using Apple products and other other computers, phones and tablets that a lot of what's in those guides isn't necessary, anyway. And by not including documentation, Apple helps reinforce the idea its products are so intuitive to use that you just don't need documentation.

That's not to say that Apple doesn't produce really gorgeous, helpful, complete documentation for its products. It just doesn't print it and stick it in the box. Fortunately, there's a solution, and it's built right in to every iPhone, iPad and Mac.

It's called iBooks. 

Apple's iBooks on the Mac

Apple's iBooks on the Mac

The iBooks app — resident on all Macs equipped with OS X 10.9 "Mavericks" and higher, and resident on all iOS apps running iOS 4.3 or later — provides you with access to millions of books, many of which are free. "Free" includes all the user guides Apple has produced.

Apple doesn't just publish user guides in English, either. You can find Apple documentation in Spanish, French, Russian, and many other languages.

I work in an iPad and Mac reseller and we get complaints from some of our customers — often the older ones, if I had to generalize — about the absence of documentation included with today's products. It's great to be able to show them iBooks — typically on the device they're buying — and show them that the old user manual is alive and well.

Apple's iBooks on the iPhone

Apple's iBooks on the iPhone​

What's more, Apple periodically updates product documentation to reflect changes in new operating system releases, highlighting new features and newly exposed functionality. So check back frequently if you're looking for updated user guides. 

Here's another good reason to peruse iBooks for Apple manuals: Researching a new purchase. Forewarned is forearmed, they say. Download the accompanying user guide for the product you're thinking about buying, to get a better sense of what it does and how it works.