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© Ugur Akinci
A “Read Me” file is a part of almost every software product, whether it’s released on a CD (and marketed in a box) or downloaded from the Internet.
It traditionally has the file name ReadMe.txt or Read_Me.txt and consists of an unformatted plain text file. The idea is to make sure it can be read on any computer using any kind of operating system.
There used to be a time when software products used to come only with a ReadMe file that also doubled up as a user guide. But those days are of course long gone. These days a ReadMe file is used mostly as a “Release Note” to update the user about things that have changed; new features added, and known bugs that are fixed.
Always make sure you alert the user to existence of the ReadMe file in as many places as possible. For example, if the software CD flashes a start-up screen when inserted into the CD drive, make sure there is a message there urging the user to read the ReadMe file first.
Start your ReadMe text file with the name of the software, version or release number, and the date of the file.
Follow that by important “prerequisite system information.” If for example the user needs to download the latest version of Flash or have .NET installed on their PC to make the software work properly, state that clearly in the ReadMe file.
Another section you may want to include is “Installation Notes” if, that is, you do have a separate Installation Guide that comes with the product.
Then follow that section with New Features and Bug fixes, and probably nothing else. Try to keep your ReadMe file as short as possible.
Here is the hypothetical outline of a fictitious ReadMe file:
************** READ ME File ******************
KNOWN ISSUES (that will be addressed in a future release)
If the file is longer than a few pages, you may want to add a mini-TOC to the top of the first page as well.
Here are some ReadMe file samples: