Create A Reference Library Containing User Guides and Manuals

By Phil Davis
March 2015

Tired of digging through file cabinets or boxes full of paper when searching for a manual for your TV? How about the manual for using your microwave? If you are like me you rarely remember where you put them, and they often refuse to be found.

Try a better way. Download PDF versions of the user guides and manuals for your appliances, electronic gear, computers, tools, and all the other stuff we accumulate. Almost all manufacturers provide them on their websites these days.

First, you must create a folder to store your reference documents. I suggest something like this: Documents/Reference/Manuals.

As you start to accumulate your manuals you might want to create more subfolders such as /Manuals/Applicances, /Manuals/Electronics, /Manuals/Computer Equipment, /Manuals/Photo Equipment, etc.

Use Google search to find the manuals. Usually all you need in the search term is the make and model of the item + manual. Apple makes it easy to find your computer manuals. You just need your serial number.

  1. Click on the Apple icon in your menu bar (top left corner)
  2. Select About This Mac
  3. Find the Serial Number and write it down
  4. Go to http://support.apple.com/manuals/
  5. Click Browse by Product
  6. Enter the serial number into the search field, click Search
  7. Select the manual you want and download the file. Note: sometimes you will see other items that seem to be unrelated – they are shown because they contain information that is somehow related to your computer.

Be sure to save the downloaded PDF files into the proper subfolder in your Documents. Once you save them you can easily find them again using Spotlight.

Make Your Reference Library Available Anywhere

Now that you have a Reference Library, you might want to make it accessible from other computers or iDevices. There are several ways to do this.

  1. Use iBooks. You can put copies into iBooks and then they will be available on your iPad or iPhone. You will need to connect the device to your computer (via USB or WiFi) and copy the files into the iBooks app.
  2. Use Dropbox. Instead of creating folders for the reference library in Documents, use your Dropbox account. In this case the folder structure would look like this. Dropbox/Reference/Manuals & Guides/. Now the Reference Library will be accessible on any computer connected to your Dropbox account as well as on your mobile devices.
  3. Use Evernote. If you have a free Evernote account, then create a category on the Evernote account called Manuals and Guides. Upload the PDF files, and add Tags for the type of manual. Now your Reference Library will be accesible on all your computers using the Evernote app. You can read them on any computer using your browser, and on all your mobile devices. What’s not to like!

There are at least four more ways to do this, but I think you get the idea. I’ll stop here before you overload your brain.

The Bottom Line: Just do it – you won’t regret it.