It's time to toss your paper owner's manuals

Why keep a file of printed manuals when you can quickly find them online?

Tucked away in the back of a file cabinet, I have an overstuffed folder of owner's manuals, many of which are for products I no longer own. I'm getting a jump on my spring cleaning this year and throwing out the entire folder.

I no longer need any of these printed manuals in my house -- even for the products I still own and use -- when any and all owner's manuals can be found online. The best part? You can do keyword searches to jump to a topic more quickly than paging through a paper manual or using a table of contents or index.

Just Google it

A quick Google search for a product name and model number plus "manual" will find almost alwyas find your desired manual. I went through my printed owner's manuals, found a PDF online of each manual I still needed, and then tossed the paper versions in the recycling.


Goodbye, old manuals.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Storing your digital manuals for easy access

You have a few options for storing your collection of PDF owner's manuals. You could download them to your computer and keep them stored locally in a folder. Or you could pop them on Dropbox, Google Drive or another cloud storage service so you could access them from any of your devices.

How to store PDF manuals in iBooks

My preference is to use iBooks so I can refer to my manuals from my iPad, iPhone or Mac.

To get PDFs to iBooks, use the Safari app. When you are viewing a PDF in Safari, tap the screen to bring up a banner at the top with Open in on the left side and Open in iBooks on the right. Tap the latter and you will download the PDF to iBooks.

In iBooks, I created a folder to store all of my manuals:

  • To create a folder, called a Collection in iBooks, tap All Books at the top and then tap New Collection. Give this new Collection a name -- say, User Manuals -- and then go back to the All Books view where your PDFs reside.
  • To move your PDFs to this new Collection, tap Select in the upper-right corner, tap the PDFs you want to move, and then tap Move in the upper-left corner. After tapping Move, you can then choose your new User Manuals folder from the Collections pages.
Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

To share your iBooks library across your iOS and OS X devices, make sure you are using the same Apple ID for each device and have the sync settings enabled.

In iOS, go to Settings > iBooks and make sure Select Sync Collections and Sync Bookmarks and Notes are both turned on. On a Mac, open iBooks, go to iBooks > Preferences, and make sure the box is checked for Sync bookmarks, highlights, and collections across devices.

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