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The missing manual book series has the tagline “The book that should have been in the box” with the images of a dog carries a book in its mouth.Is it just an idiom or it mean that the dog take this book away from reader box so some fatal information is missed away ? the box in this context might refer to a package box of software product perhaps ?

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closed as general reference by Daniel, simchona, aedia λ, kiamlaluno, Jasper Loy Sep 1 '11 at 4:36

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Should have been means that it is right, proper, or an obligation; the book series authors are judging that manufacturers fail this obligation to include a good manual. The homepage explains that "The documentation you receive with new hardware and software often leave something to be desired." – aedia λ Sep 1 '11 at 3:55
up vote 1 down vote accepted

The tagline plays on the name of the book, "The Missing Manual". . The link you provided states:

Why are there Missing Manuals? Instead, after paying $300 or more for the software, you're expected to learn these complex programs by reading electronic help screens.

But online help is no substitute for a real manual. Ever try to flip between help topics? Or try to read them over breakfast? Wish you could underline, or at least bookmark what you found? Ah. We thought so.

Software programs don't usually come with manuals, but they come with electronic help. The "Missing Manuals" is help concerning the software programs, and the tagline implies that this Manual should have been in the box, but isn't, so the people who wrote the Manual are providing the Manual(which should have come with the Software Program sold, but isn't) in book form.

The dog is just a play on "missing", which meant that someone (in this case, the dog) has taken the Manual from the boxes of Software Programs, that's why no manuals in Software Program boxes. It's just a playful picture, combining the ideas of "missing" with the dog who tends to take bones (or other stuff, such as shoes) and hiding them.

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The box refers to the box that a product came in, usually with a manual. By stating that The Missing Manual is 'the book that should have been in the box', it is simultaneously making a value judgement on manuals that usually come with products (they are bad) and The Missing Manual (it does the job that the original manuals failed to do, i.e. teach you how to use the product).

I'd guess that the dog is used because in Western culture dogs are often trained (or at least they are believed to be trainable) to bring useful things such as newspapers and slippers. So the dog (your friend) is bringing something useful (The Missing Manual).

It's not an idiom. It just assumes a high degree of shared cultural knowledge for effect.

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What does it mean by shared cultural knowledge, does it means what person who live in similar context would get some kind of joke or metaphor ? – Sarawut Positwinyu Sep 1 '11 at 3:16
yes, basically. language is efficient and requires shared knowledge, so without understanding a lot of other culturally-bound information, the dog and missing part might not make sense when analysed literally. Grice's maxims attempt to explain this phenomenon – user12549 Sep 1 '11 at 3:54

I suspect that the logo of the dog carrying the book is simply a cute image that is not intended to have any particular meaning relating to the objective of the website.

As you suggest, the tagline does indeed refer to a boxed software package, the implication being that often software does not come packaged with an appropriate hard-copy printed manual in the box. The manual in this case could be said to be "missing". The software may come with a substandard or poorly written manual, or an electronic manual which many users find difficult to read. The Missing Manuals website seeks to redress the balance by providing software documentation better suited for a typical end user.

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