Could You Throw Out All Your Manuals?

Could You Throw Out All Your Manuals?

Given that manufacturers generally make newer manuals available online and there are online communities dedicated to fill in the gaps for companies that don’t, storing actual paper manuals often seems like a waste of time. But can you actually make the leap to throwing them out?

Picture by Amit Gupta

On the blog for document organisation site Niggle It, founder Chris Williamson talks about how "liberating" it is not to have to file away a manual into a drawer or folder where it may never get accessed again. Unsurprisingly, Williamson uses his own software to store electronic copies of the manual, but you could also keep them on your hard drive or in a Dropbox folder or even on a separate USB key.

Paper manuals can have their uses, of course. I was impressed with a motel I stayed in over the weekend which actually included the manual for the television in the compendium of room information -- useful for working out how to switch between digital and Austar channels and for using the other built-in features on a non-familiar device. And online manual repositories don't always do a good job with Australia-specific products, or electronic goods which are rebranded and sold by multiple manufacturers.

So I'm wondering: have you ditched your paper manuals? And if you have, what's your tactic for keeping their electronic substitutes organised? Tell us in the comments?

Where is the manual for that? [Niggle It Blog]


  • As long as there is a USB drive with the manual on it – that would be fine. I would argue though the resources used to manufacture the USB drive would be MORE than just a dead tree.

    So one could also argue that not supplying a manual is more polluting than cutting down a tree because you need electricity to power the computer your using to access the internet, the manufacture of said computer, the internet itself (data centres aren’t really green) and the cost of your ISP on top of your purchase.

    Not suppling a manual could also make device makers lazy with poor documentation because they can just update the documentation as they go.

  • First thing I do now whenever I get a new gadget, toy, device, thing is to download the .PDF manual, and most things have them at the makers website these days. And then email that to myself where it gets tagged with MANUALS and filed away in my Google Apps cloud email.

    From there I know I can then access the manual for whatever it is I need to know about, from anywhere I am that has internet. iPhone, iPad, any computer with a browser.

    I keep the included paper copies in the box for when I sell the whatever it is later down the track. But I nearly always refer to the .PDF copy that is easily searchable for… Unlike the pile of “filing” on the cabinets in my study 🙂

  • Great idea for the Googlized PDFs, I do that with most docs now too.

    I like this idea behind Niggle It because they have also added a reminder function for the warranty/return for refund period.

    Lots of good ideas are coming out of Darlinghurst!


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