Documentation is a vital part of any application, proprietary or free software, as it is often the first way to communicate with users about the application or software and how it should be used. I also think it tends to be one of the areas most taken for granted; most users expect it to be there and often forget just how much effort goes into producing it.
Many users also complain about the documentation itself. Often this is because it’s been written by programmers and, as a rule, they really aren’t that great at writing documentation that is particularly human readable.
That’s why, as I mentioned last week, we have a dedicated documentation team here at MySQL. There are five people in the team, and if that sounds like a lot, it’s worth pointing out that the reference manual for the main MySQL server product is available for three different versions of MySQL (4.1 and lower, 5.0 and 5.1) and, at the moment, runs to over 1800 pages for the 5.1 manual alone. That page count doesn’t include elements such as the MySQL GUI tools or the internal documentation, or the work that goes into producing the printed documentation through MySQL Press.
The problem is that it is often difficult for our users to see the virtual wood for the virtual trees, and so, as a Docs member, I’m going to try and let people know each week exactly what is going on inside the Docs team, and what we’re releasing.
For example, one of the most common queries into the documentation team from users is about translations into a foreign language. We already have reference manual translations in Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish, and we are adding new translations all the time.
Last week, we released the German 5.1 Reference Manual after some hard work by Stefan (Docs team lead) and the German translators. The translation process is a long one; we don’t use translation software, which means that all 1800 pages have had to be translated by hand, but the result is outstanding.
This week we announced the launch of a brand new Connector/ODBC section in the Connectors chapter. The update is part of a wider update to the Connectors chapter as a whole; I’m working on the Connector/NET and Connector/J documentation at the moment and that will be coming online soon.
If you have any questions or comments on what we’re doing here in the Docs team, please don’t hesitate to ask.