In the department of giving credit where credit is due, I have to say that I had occasion today to use Dell’s online manuals for the disassembly and servicing of the company’s laptops, and I was extremely impressed.

At the end of last week, the laptop of a family member of mine had an unfortunate run-in with a nearly-full cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee, and amazingly, the keyboard bore 100% of the brunt of the unprovoked attack. He quickly shut the machine down and dried off the keyboard as best as he could, and then tried to take the worst-hit regions of the keyboard apart to dry the membrane underneath. Alas, as is the case with most laptop keyboards, that was a road fraught with peril, and the result was one broken spacebar, a few misaligned key caps, and a bunch of keys that just didn’t work anymore. He enlisted my help, and we found that a replacement keyboard from Dell cost a very reasonable $25, so we ordered it up. The part came yesterday, and the service manual gave very clear directions on all the steps needed to get the broken keyboard out and replace it with the new one. In fact, they were so clear that I also felt confident enough to remove the display and the entire top section of the laptop’s plastic case, fix an older problem with the trackpad’s buttons, and put the whole thing back together again. (And there weren’t any stray screws left over at the end!)

I know that Dell has had its share of issues over the years, but in this case, the presence of accessible and well-illustrated service manuals made me pretty happy.