A how-to is an informal and often short video or text describing how to accomplish a specific task. A how-to is usually meant to help non-experts and consequently may leave out details that are important only to experts. Due to this, a how-to may be greatly simplified compared to a usual discussion of the subject.
One of the earliest how-to books was published in 1569 and titled, 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 titled with the suffix "101" (based on academic numberings of entry-level courses).
Usage in the world of computers
In the open-source community it is common practice to write the phrase as "HOWTO". This is consistent with the traditional naming scheme for technical documentation, such as FAQ and README - and makes this specific type of article easier to find using search engines like Google.
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.
- List of Linux HowTos, tldp.org
- Searching for the phrase "how to" would not necessarily deliver relevant search results.