A how-to is an informal, often short, description of how to accomplish a specific task. A how-to is usually meant to help non-experts, may leave out details that are only important to experts, and may also be greatly simplified from an overall discussion of the topic.
One of the earliest how-to books was published in 1569 and entitled, A booke of the arte and maner, how to plant and graffe all sortes of trees: With divers other new practise, by one of the Abbey of Saint Vincent in Fraunce by Leonard Mascall.
A similar concept can be seen in many of the [topic] For Dummies series of tutorials and also in many other introductory surveys entitled with the suffix "101" (based on academic numberings of entry-level courses).
Usage in the world of computers
It is common practice to write the phrase as "HOWTO" in the open-source community. This is consistent with the traditional naming scheme for technical documentation, such as FAQ and README. Another possible reason is that this makes it easier to find a how-to in search engines like Google as searching with the words "to" and "how" does not necessarily deliver relevant search results.
In the beginning, most how-tos on the Internet were the result of a complex process in which an author wrote a how-to for potential readers. After 2001, user added content played a more and more important role on the internet in a trend that is widely referred to as Web 2.0. This had a profound impact on the way in which how-tos are generated on the internet, as the readers and users were able to add to and improve the on-line content.
- Do it yourself
- Imperative mood
- Knowledge base
- Methods of obtaining knowledge
- Procedural knowledge, a discussion of what sort of knowledge is imparted, and how far it can be imparted, in how-tos.
- User guide
- Walkthrough (disambiguation)
- List of Linux HowTos, tldp.org
- As of 2009 A Google search for "How To" results in a comprehensive list of HowTo sites. It seems this has changed throughout the years. In the 1990s and early years of 2000, it was common for search engines to ignore these words, and even to notify the user that these words are too common for giving a comprehensive result. Currently, the Google features web page says: Google ignores common words and characters such as where, the, how, and other digits and letters that slow down your search without improving the results. If a common word is essential to getting the results you want, you can make sure we pay attention to it by putting a "+" sign in front of it."
- A search on Google for "howto faq" or for "faq howto" results in FAQs with HowTo instructions in them, but never to a single HowTo page. This is probably because FAQ pages are usually broader in scope, and therefore more commonly used.