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Learning how to use your new gadgets

You got a spiffy new tech gadget for the holidays - yay! But do you know how to use it? Do you read a manual, or just wing it and figure it out as you go along?

I'm more of the latter, with a few exceptions. So far the only devices I've needed to read a manual for this holiday were a Kodak digital photo frame (which didn't help me much) and to set up a Magellan GPS. But I didn't bother reading the manual for my new cellphone because I didn't need to -- I just learned by messing around with it.

If you're hunting for a manual, the OwnerIQ network of Web sites owns URLs including TV.ManualsOnline.com, Audio.ManualsOnline.com, CarAudio.ManualsOnline.com and PortableMedia.ManualsOnline.com. The company conducted a survey that 20 percent of Internet savvy consumers review product manuals before even buying the product. I never even thought of doing that, but maybe now I will.

OwnerIQ said it surveyed about 2,700 of its users in September. Other results from the survey include:

  • More than 86 percent of consumer respondents cited the user manual as the first place they turn to learn about the products they own
  • More than 77 percent noted that one of the most frequent reasons for consulting a user manual is to learn about using product features
  • Fifty-five percent said that a search engine -- not the manufacturer's website -- was the first place they go when trying to find a manual online
  • 95 percent of surveyed users report referring to a user manual two times or more during the past year
  • 65 percent of the most Internet savvy respondents say they consult user manuals more than five times a year
  • 89 percent reported negative feelings about the manufacturer when they had trouble obtaining the user manual

My biggest peeve is when a company tells you to go online to read the full manual -- just because they want to save paper. I'm all for being green, but when I'm having an issue with a product, I turn to the manual that came in the box. I paid for that product and I expect there to be a manual with it. And if a little piece of paper tells me I need to hunt for a PDF online to fix something that has a simple answer, that only adds to the frustration.

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