Photoshop 6.0 Help Manual Goof-Up

I am pinpointing one example of a goof up in the Photoshop Help manual for three reasons:

  • Photoshop being a widely used tool cannot afford any such goof ups regardless of the version of the tool
  • To help you keep in mind some important things while writing instructions for a product feature
  • To help you review your writing

When you are looking at a section in a help manual or reviewing your own writing, question each statement written. If only you have the answer, the writing makes sense.

I have taken a section from the help manual of Photoshop 6 and have reviewed it.

The section is basically on how to use the Pen tool in Photoshop 6.0. The section has a brief description followed by 9 steps to use the feature.

Please read the section on the Pen tool (ps-drawing-with-the-pen-tool.pdf) before you proceed.

Here is my review.

Please click the thumbnail to enlarge


Let me detail out each point.


Feature Description



In the feature description, there is a comparison between the Pen Tool and Freeform pen tool.

Let’s assume you directly come to this page without visiting any other page in the help manual. Will this reference to the Freeform pen tool make sense to you?

The word Freeform pen tool has not been hyperlinked to the page where information about Freeform pen tool is available.

Most often people do not go through the help manual in a logical fashion. Therefore you need to make sure that each section is independent in itself. Of course you cannot have all the information in one page. You need to link important terms/words to relevant pages.


Instruction 1



Instruction 1 asks you to select the pen tool. The first question anyone would ask is From where do I select the pen tool? Let’s say a user who has no clue about the toolbar in Photoshop reads this. Will this make sense?

Here again it has been assumed that the user must have gone through the introduction to the toolbar.

An efficient way of writing this instruction would be to mention that the user has to select the pen tool from the toolbar and hyperlink the word toolbar to the relevant page where information about the toolbar is available. This makes life simple for the user.


Instruction 2



Instruction 2 has some reference to options bar. I had to go back to the first few pages to check what an options bar is. Hyperlinking this word would have saved my time.

Here again the Drawing shapes and paths link is irrelevant because it doesn’t help you in the task that you are trying to do. The link is giving more information which is actually confusing.


Instruction 3



Instruction 3 is even more confusing. When you read the instructions you are likely to ask

  • Whats a Rubber Band
  • Whats a path segment?
  • Whats an anchor point?
  • What does it mean to define an anchor point? The word define does not state the action to be done
  • Whats Auto Add/Delete?

As you can notice there is lot of missing information in this instructions. The instructions do say where to select what. What exactly to do to draw using the pen tool is still unclear.


Instruction 4



Instruction 4 adds to the confusion. One question that is likely to irk you is that

How to define the first anchor point(though you don’t know what an anchor point is)?

The instructions Define an anchor point does not indicate any action.


Instructions 5, 6, 7



Instruction 5 has some reference to shape area option which is vague

As you proceed with the instructions further you keep reading but you still haven’t learnt how to use the Pen tool.

Lo! At the end you find hyperlinks to pages having information on Anchor Points and some other terms.

Excerpts from the Manual


Well, it does seem like you have to do a lot of reading before you can interpret the instructions.

The pen tool is one of the important features in Photoshop and not an easy thing to use.

Therefore this section should have had ample screenshots/illustrations. Photoshop is all about working with images. How can one write a help manual for such a tool with less illustrations?

If you find time go through the entire manual of Photoshop 6.0.

You will find lots of goof-ups.


3 Responses

  1. Hi
    I have Adobe Photoshop Elements 6.0 and I can’t find the pen tool in my toolbar. Could you please help me?

  2. should i buy other photo editing software or do yo suggest a tutorial

  3. Hi Alice,

    The example in my post is just to identify how to write good instructions for help manual. It has nothing got to do with the tool Photoshop itself. Photoshop is a great tool. You can find loads of tutorials on the web.

    Thanks for visiting my blog.


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