When you bring that shiny new PC home, there is no book of instructions with it. You are on your own. Is there any other device as complicated as a Windows PC that comes with no user manual? Even if you figure out a few things about Windows, there is the Internet to learn about. And how about Microsoft Word or Quicken or Photoshop Elements or any number of common software applications? Very little in the way of instruction manuals come with them either.
As a result of this vacuum of instruction, there are hundreds of computer books on various facets of how to use a home PC. Some are more useful than others. Two well-known series of books for average people are assessed at 7Tutorials.
The strong points of the For Dummies series are the cheerful, chatty tone of the writing and the more extensive space given to written information. The series has been around for a long time and the Wiley editorial staff has had an equally long time to work out the formula and the format. Many of the authors have written multiple books over a span of several years and are clearly at ease with the way these books work, which in turn makes things easy for the reader.
The strong points of the Step by Step series are the straightforward explanations, the color illustrations and the inclusion of the e-book in the price of the printed version. The authors obviously know how to get right to the point and explain everything one step at a time, so that even the complete beginner can build up confidence quickly. These books are a product of Microsoft Press, so the careful attention paid to explaining Microsoft products had to be second to none.
Do I prefer one series to the other? Not really. Each has its place. I have praised books from both series for the way they handle complex topics and I’ve downgraded them for missing the boat here and there. As a visual learner I appreciate plenty of illustrations and I like authors who understand how to explain things for beginners without being condescending or assuming that everyone already knows everything. Even though I am not a beginner I learned something new in every book I reviewed.