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Tech Tips: Find user manuals online

Photo for The Union John Hart
Jorn Hart | The Union

I have several high-tech gadgets for which I’ve lost the manuals. I know only wimps read manuals, but at this point, I could really use them. Is there some convenient place to find them online?

Having just spent the weekend trying to configure his father’s Comcast remote and dealing with all the details involved in setting up the remote control, Ken certainly understands your need for having online resources that allow you to find various high-tech gadget manuals. His father had not saved the printed manual, so he had to look around online for help (of course, they could have called Comcast, but what fun would that have been?).

It turns out that there are a number of sites online that provide PDF copies of manuals of all sorts, including the ones we happened to need. One of these is a subscription document service that Ken subscribes to, Scribd.com, which provides books, articles, magazines and other content on demand, much like a Netflix for books — you can pay monthly, or yearly, and read as much as you like. Scribd provides tons and tons of archived documents, like user manuals, and you can get a month for free to try it out (and download the user manual you need today). You don’t have to join Scribd to peruse and read from its collection of user-supplied documents, including online manuals, so check it out!



If you search, you can also find websites that provide user manuals for everything from televisions to washing machines to lawn mowers. Central Manuals (http://www.central-manuals.com) is one of these sites, and we’ve found several useful files there.

Rather than listing all the sites we’ve found here, you can peruse the list provided in this article, and make your choice: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/5-sites-find-download-user-manuals/.




What should you do with the manuals once you find them? We suggest that you download and store them in a place where you can easily locate them next time you need them. Doug uses OneNote, and Ken uses EverNote, for this very purpose. Both applications allow you to store documents, and make it easy to find them later. For more information, check out OneNote (http://www.onenote.com/) and EverNote (http://www.evernote.com). Both sites provide excellent ways to store and manage online documentation.

Search without being tracked: DuckDuckGo.com

I’ve been using Google Search for years, but I recently read that Google tracks all my searches, and knows way too much about me. Is there some other search engine I can use that doesn’t track everything I do online?

It’s true: Google’s search seems benign, but, in fact, Google tracks every site you visit, every search term you enter, and every link you click on as you’re browsing the Web. Maybe you don’t care; maybe you never visit a website that you wouldn’t want your mother to know about, but it’s still bothersome that Google knows everything about every site you visit.

You might attempt to foil Google’s tracking overlords by using your browser’s “incognito” mode, but this really doesn’t help. This mode (available in all modern browsers) allows you to browse without storing information about your browsing session on the local computer, but it doesn’t keep Google (and, to be honest, Microsoft and Yahoo, as well) from tracking your online whereabouts.

Although it may be a case of “too little, too late,” we do have a simple suggestion: Rather than using Google for your searches, try a different search engine. The current favorite is the oddly named DuckDuckGo (http://www.duckduckgo.com). Not only does DuckDuckGo promise to never track your online searches, it makes it easy to replace your current default search engine with its own — browsing to http://www.duckduckgo.com provides browser-specific information on how to replace your current default search engine with DuckDuckGo. It couldn’t be easier!

None of this effort would be worth it if DuckDuckGo didn’t provide excellent search results, and it doesn’t fail in this area. We have found its results to be just as meaningful as Google’s, and it’s got a lot of neat tricks up its sleeve, as well. For example, search for “weather 95949” (replacing the zip code with your own) and DuckDuckGo displays a beautiful and clean weather forecast. If you use advanced features of Google search, you won’t be disappointed with the features DuckDuckGo provides. Ken has switched all his browsers to use DuckDuckGo as the default search engine, and hasn’t looked back. We’re not particularly worried about Google (and Bing and Yahoo) tracking our whereabouts online, but it just seems safer, neater, and less worrisome to use DuckDuckGo instead, and not ever think about it again.

Doug Behl and Ken Getz spent years answering technical questions in private, and are minimizing the questions by pre-emptively publishing the answers. Hear Doug and Ken’s tech tips on KNCO radio weekdays at around 8:21a.m. and 5:38 p.m.; find full write-ups including links to the products they mention at http://blog.techtipguys.com. Submit your own technical questions to questions@techtipguys.com.


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