User manuals – those thick (or thin) soft covered sheaf’s of paper with multi-lingual instructions and weird hieroglyphics that we don’t bother to read. Not only that, it gets stuffed inside the box it came in and gets chucked into the deep cob-webbed corners never to be seen again. Until, brain freeze strikes and you can’t quite make out what that little button on your glitzy remote does. We all have rummaged through the house looking for the user manual we ‘misplaced’. No luck.
Here’s where a bit of smarts comes in. The meticulous guy with foresight will either scan it and keep a softcopy in his computer, or look for a softcopy that’s usually available as PDF on the manufacturer’s site.
There’s a third option – a bunch of specialist websites which does the hard work for us lazybones, and stockpiles user manuals for us to search and download.
Retrevo is an electronics shopping site. It is also an above par consumer gadget review sites, but I am betting here that you can make better use of it for its rich index of over 100,000 manuals that are available for free download. That’s 100,000 user manuals from 1000 brands.
When trouble strikes, you can head to Retrevo and drill down the alphabetical listing. Better still, scan down the popular brand name list to find the electronic/electrical gizmo that’s playing hard to get. Retrevo covers popular names like Casio, Canon, Dell, Electrolux, and Sony. I spotted a few names like Victorinox and Fossil that you don’t expect to see so commonly.
What I like about Retrevo: The broad categories: I found 2-way radios, humidifiers, telescopes, GPS systems, and gaming accessories here.
Manuals Online ranks right up there when you search for user manuals on Google. Why shouldn’t it, as it beats Retrevo with a headcount of 600,000 user guides and manuals, and it is just as attractive. The specialist site covers all kinds of user manuals in any category of consumer electronic/electrical product you can think of. 300,000 user manuals from 5000 brands…that’s quite a collection.
Manuals Online is completely about manuals. Choose Brands or Categories, or just use the search engine at the top. You can also register and log-in to organize all the manuals you need with the Manage My Stuff feature on the site. It allows you to arrange your manuals by rooms, and also record any discussion topics or related information around the product.
What I like about Manuals Online: The virtual filing cabinet (Manage My Stuff) is a super organizational tool. Also, Manuals Online could be your one-stop for manual and gadget related help with its 2 million strong community that can give you any product help.
Safe Manuals gets it right when it says – what can you do when an e-bay auction you won ends with you getting the item without the instructions?
Safe Manuals does not look as spiffy as the two sites above, but it does have nearly 400,000 user guides and manuals across nearly 11,000 brands to hold its own. Here too you can upload your own user manual and help to grow the stock. Browse by manufacturer or category. You will notice that Safe Manuals also covers car and bike manufacturers starting from A (Aston Martin) to V (Volkswagen). There are also some names which do not have manuals linked to them, so that’s sometimes a downer.
What I like about Safe Manuals: Quite a few of the popular brands have forums around them where you can shout for help or help others with their troubleshooting.
Do you balk when you have to pick up your screwdriver and open up the panel of a gadget? Most of us do, because we aren’t the DIY-er types. It is also not a great idea to go charging into the complicated circuitry of a gadget’s innards. That’s where iFixit comes in. iFixit is a repair-it-yourself website with free online repair manuals across varied products – from Apple to Xboxes. It started out with Mac but now includes general purpose household gadgets too.
iFixit has been divided into three major portions: Parts (get repair parts and upgrades), Repair (step-by-step guides), and Answers (diagnose and troubleshoot).
What I like about iFixit: Teardowns (disassembly instructions) and repair guides come with illustrations and detailed instructions.
eSpares describes itself as UK’s leading spare parts retailer. It is mainly a site that deals with spare parts, accessories and consumables for all the electrical appliances in your home and garden, but it also stocks up on user manuals for appliances around the house. With common brands available across the Atlantic, you can try this out too.
What I like about eSpares: You can search for your user manual using a combination of manufacturer’s name from the dropdown and the model number.
I wouldn’t underestimate the plain-Jane nature of The Manuals which is basically a Google Custom Search engine disguised as a PDF search tool for user manuals. It is quick and handy if you don’t have the time to drill through the other sites on this list. You get the option of viewing manuals online or downloading them to your desktop as PDF files.
What I like about The Manuals: Quick access and simple search with a language selection.
These six specialized websites on user manuals and guides are probably the cream of them all out there. If you still don’t manage to get the one you are looking for, approach the communities behind some of these services. Then, there’s trusty old Google Search of course. Do you have your own trusty old source? How do you manage your manuals? Did you ever miss one, and curse yourself for throwing it away?
Image Credit: A concerned computer user via Shutterstock