Documentation: Virtulisation Basics

This is an example of an instruction manual covering the basics of Oracle VM VirtualBox.

Planning and Development

At the time of writing, this portfolio provides a lot of work examples from university projects. I wanted to be able to provide a sample of work related to IT, outside of a university project and unconnected from my work (in my current job role I am in charge of developing step-by-step lab documentation). 

I wanted to cover something short and practical and something that the reader could complete for free, using their own computer. I chose Oracle VM VirtualBox as it’s simple to use and easy to document.

Markel and Selber (2018) recommend analysing the audience when designing documents – the users current knowledge of the subject and their attitude. I aimed this document towards new engineers or college students who might not have used VirtualBox before (or might have used something like VMware Player or Hyper-V). The Oracle VM VirtualBox website contains a lot of information on the fundamentals of virtulisation, so rather than reinventing the wheel, I chose to create a high-level introduction to the exercises with resource links back to the VirtualBox website. 

I recently watched a video by Tom Johnson (I’d Rather be Writing) and he explains that “engineers want interactive experiences” I think this sums up the attitude that most engineers in IT have towards learning. With this in mind, I decided to create a document that focuses on the exercises. I  wanted to make this a user manual, rather than a course, something that a user could read once and learn something straight away.

Techniques

I started with the duration – how long do I want the document to be? And how long should the activities take to complete? – I decided I only wanted the activities to take around 30 minutes to complete.

I then wrote the objectives – what should the user be able to do after reading this document? I kept the objectives short and high-level. After choosing the objectives, I then decided to run through the steps myself, to make sure that the activities would only take 30 minutes, and to take screenshots of the steps (using the Windows snipping tool).

I then designed the layout of the document, captioned the steps then wrote the instructions. I also used the Microsoft Style Guide for reference. I added a title page and end page, contents and page numbers. I included a document overview which provides the purpose of the document, an outline and prerequisites. 

Summary

The document provides a high-level overview of virtulisation to a user new to using Oracle VM VirtualBox. This document is an example of a typical document I create on a day-to-day basis.

Skills Demonstrated
  • Documentation
  • Instructional design
  • Technical writing
Tools Used
  • Microsoft Word 2016
  • Microsoft Style Guide
  • Oracle VM VirtualBox
  • Windows snipping tool

You can access the final version of this document here.

References

Markel, M. and Selber, S. (2018). Technical communication, 12th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s.