I had a lesson yesterday with one of my favorite students. She's a designer and artist and I can talk to her about Adobe geek stuff. We spent about the first half hour of her lesson talking about things like serif and sans serif fonts and which works better in various situations. I know someone is a kindred soul when they are aware of the fact that, as a general rule of thumb, you shouldn't use more than two fonts in a piece of work (and sometimes only one is better).
I had been encouraging her to learn to use Adobe's page layout software, InDesign, rather than do layout in its drawing application, Illustrator. She already bought all of Adobe's publication suite so she might as well get more out of it. The main thing holding her back had been a lack of motivation because most of her projects contained few pages and learning InDesign wasn't worth the effort if she could easily do it in Illustrator, which she knows very well and can work quickly and comfortably in.
Recently a new project came up which required a 16-page layout and it was too daunting to do in Illustrator so she bit the bullet and dug in. This was essentially what I made myself do awhile back, though I did it of my own volition because I'm just that big of a dork. There are two ways to learn InDesign. One is to use Adobe's help system to guide you through the rough spots and slowly learn the program. The other is to buy some sort of classroom in a book and teach yourself. The way I learned is no longer an option because I learned from printed manuals that Adobe sent me back in the days when such things were included as part of the outrageous price you paid for their software.
I try not to finish my student's sentences, but when she said "Adobe's Help is...", I had to blurt out "awful". I've tried it for a variety of programs since getting CS4 and have found it dismal in offering up the information I need. The main problem is that its online help relies on a search spitting out a link to the proper information. Sometimes you land in the middle of the information you need with no lead to how you're supposed to start. Sometimes you end up in the middle of nowhere. On rare occasions, you may get the information you want, but it's all rather scatter shot.
While I don't think Adobe or any company ought to send out some huge manual with every piece of software, I think they should link to a downloadable manual on the first page that loads up on your web browser when you choose the "help" item from the menu. In fact, I think they should make sure that such a link stands out on the page rather than tucking it off to the side with other files (and only showing you the link after you conduct a search).
After poking around a bit, I sent my student off a message about where to find the downloadable manual and how to easily link to training videos (from inside the manual), but I think it's too late. My guess is that she's finished this project and now she has no incentive to learn the software any better and, indeed, is probably too turned off by the hassle of seeking help to even try.