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Documentation

The MacInTax manual is good, but not great. There is an introduction, eight chapters, seven appendixes, and an index. The introduction is just that, and the first two chapters walk you through installation and basic usage. Chapters Three through Six deal with specific ways in which MacInTax deals with the tax forms, and these chapters are the ones that you have to read and reread (don’t rely on the index). Chapter Three is a reference for the 1040, Chapter Four deals with depreciation, Chapter Five covers Passive/At Risk Activities, and Chapter Six handles the 1040-ES form. You are unlikely to need to pore over all four chapters, but Chapter Three is necessary, and the others may or may not be, depending on your situation. I had to read the section on depreciation a number of times before I found all the information I wanted. Chapter Seven covers printing and filing the return, and is probably another good one to read carefully, though I suspect most people will be able to skip Chapter Eight, which covers electronic filing. The appendixes are useful little blurbs on specific subjects, such as importing data or using the Converter application. They certainly aren’t necessary reading, but be aware that some information is only mentioned in the appendixes. The index is mediocre. It’s very specific, which is fine if you really know the tax code well, but in most cases, you only know the generic name of the subject you’re interested in. Softview could easily improve the Index by making it more complete and categorizing better – most of the entries have no sub-entries.

Some of the problem with the manual is that MacInTax itself is so easy to use that few people will feel the need for the manual until they hit a sticky point. Then the manual is a much clumsier method of finding information than the program’s intuitive method of double-clicking on the item in question. I think that Softview should seriously consider duplicating all the documentation online so that the manual is merely for those people who are more comfortable with printed documentation.

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