A downloadable PDF manual would indeed be useful.
In the meantime for your question on the tool icons. If you go to preferences and turn on Show tooltips, you should be able to hover over the tools with your mouse cursor and see a label for each tool.
You can use the search in Photoshop (click at the top right) and enter the name of the tool/function to get at list of help pages
Here's an example of what I'm complaining about:
Hmmm, I'm not seeing the red-eye tool (Photoshop CC) - where's it hiding???
Press F1 - launch Help
Type 'Photoshop red eye' into the search dialog
-- get a list of suggestions, pick the one that says 'red eye removal photoshop cc' - that really seems to make sense!!
3) Try these top tips to fix photos
..... and on and on
Oh wait--- over on the right--- click that little box that says 'Photoshop' - that must be it!!!
Nope - now I get:
1) Try these top tips to fix photos
and on and on --- RED EYE, people RED EYE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Thank you, Dave, for your response. While I used the tool icons as an example, that is not the 'root' of the problem. You are correct about the tooltips - and they are helpful. The problem mainly comes with things you know PS can do, but there's nothing 'on screen' to help you.
The way I see it, the F1 help button is dead as a source of help.
.... Yeah, I get it, Dave. That doesn't speak to my complaint about a usable help resource - something intuitive and responsive to the input you give it.
I thank you, however, for your response. If I was 'hung up' in a project, you would be the hero! :-)
There's a lot of fantastic handbooks, references and online resources out there. I rely on them for understanding the tool.
The PDF has been replaced with this online page. Photoshop Help | Photoshop User Guide
That online page is not a substitute for accurate, concise help when you're in the middle of a project and need a quick answer. That's also not the time to start a Google search to try and find an answer to something that is specific to a very complex piece of software. If F1(Help) does not provide quick, concise help. Help for Adobe apps is broken, and should be fixed.
You know, I understand the usefulness of 3rd party resources, but when we have to depend on them for the simple answers to the 'nuts & bolts' operation of an application, there's a problem.
Being that this is a user forum, I can link you to the https://helpx.adobe.com/pdf/photoshop_reference.pdf which is 2015.5
That is the most recent and better than nothing I suppose.
But you have to go here to put in suggestions for the Product Managers: Photoshop Family Customer Community
about their documentation.
As I said in my first post I agree that a proper downloadable PDF manual would be a good thing. To make your request heard by Adobe you will need to use the link provided by gener7.
There always used to be a pdf to download on the F1 help page, but the problem with that is that it is going to be a large document, and just like online help, only as good as our ability to search for what we want. So we might as well keep the 'user guide' online with its infinite size, access to videos, side bars to full on tutorials from the likes of Russell Brown and Julianne Kost etc. Of course we then get into a wood-for-trees situation, so we'll never win.
Before the Creative Cloud subscription model was introduced, Adobe TV had a totally brilliant list view method of accessing content. It was split into categories and you could hunt through to the area of, and ten specific advice on your topic of choice. Then the powers that be decided that a pretty front end was more important than actually being able to find stuff, and completely stuffed up the access to content. People would ask a question on the forum, and I'd think of the perfect video tutorial, and even though I had what was probably not far off a verbatim memory of its title, I couldn't find it. That was incredibly frustrating, but the important thing was that the website was looking pretty, so nothing needed to be fixed.
But not a completely doom and gloom situation, because the Photoshop search tool that came with CC2017 (I think) is excellent. I bet most of this forum's regular posters need to resort to it now and again, to find a seldom used, and deeply nested function. But you only need part of one of the words that describes it, and it takes you right to it.
To be honest, I have not looked at any of those rich tool tip videos because I don't have the patience, but I imagine they do a decent job.