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Difference Between A Manual and A Guide?

There are misconceptions and considerable overlaps between these two words user manuals, and user guides. When it comes to definition, in some positions, they can be interchangeable. These two worlds can be coupled together or can be associated with other terms as well, such as a reference guide or instruction manual.

Difference Between A Manual and A Guide?

So, what are the things that could be mentioned as differences between these two? This article is to get you through the definitions of these words and the differences that set them apart and make them unique.


A manual is a specific reference book or document where you can find all the detailed information about a product along with its operation, maintenance, use, safety and other things the product may come with. The product’s manufacturers usually provide a manual with every product they make and launch into the market. It works as an assistant for the user of the product if the user doesn’t have any prior idea on how to operate or use the product and take care of it. It also refers to the user how to take care of it and keep safe while operating, if the product comes with any safety precautions. These are often called the official user manual.


Now, a guide is more of a generic term if you compare it to the definition of Manual. When user manuals usually come with a physical, non-physical or digital product, and it comes with detailed documentation about the product, a guide can be as simple as just a card or a few minutes videos. A guide can be both for a product or something else like how to buy a product! It can be referred to as a teaching method where you’ll have an overall idea about doing something. There is even no need to have any product to get a guide. A guide just leads you to a destination where a product makes clarifications and documentation.

Types of manual

There are different Derived terms and types of manuals for different perspectives, such as Instruction manual, reference manual, product manual, working manual, Owner’s manual or User manual and so on.

Types of guide

There are some different types of the guide too. Such as User guide, Career guide, Tour guide, Guideline or guidance. All these types of Guides perform the same thing, they lead you to the objective and talks about how to do the job.

Key difference

Although the main objective of both manual and guide is to provide some instruction, there are some key differences between these two. Such as:


A manual will describe all the features of a product in a certain manner and will tell you the technical terms of how to use those features and how to maintain the product. Manuals usually come with machinery products, consumer products, electronic devices that need a special hand to assemble, operate and taking care. The product manual will work as a virtual technician from the factory. So, it has to be very extensive, so the user doesn’t get into a maze of wires and safety hazards.

A guide will tell you about the product in short and only how to use it, not how to repair it. The guide can tell you how to get started with the product, it may include some basic features that are needed to get started with it, but the in-depth instruction is found in the manual, not the guide.

Look and format

When you will look at a manual, it usually comes as a written book format where the detailed descriptions are more elaborated in a formal way that speaks for the professionalism of the manufacturer.

But a guide can be anything, like a written book or a little card, a simple note, audio you can find online or a video you can watch anywhere. The guide is more of a simple and informal presentation of any product.


If I get the dilemma into account and try to elaborate in simple words, say you brought a sewing machine that comes in unassembled. You will have to open up the manual book and go through the instructions to assemble it and set it up on the space you want.

But a guide may not even come with the machine in the box! You can go online and ask someone how they use the same machine! Someone just sent you a video wherein he/she told you to get the power cord into the wall socket and hit the power-on switch. get the cloth under the needle and keep the line steady. and that’s a guide, easy and simple.


To wrap up the difference between manual and guide, take this away: when you are about to repair your laptop, you’ll be looking for user manuals and when you just want to know how to use a laptop, you’ll be looking for a laptop-using guide.

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