Studies of people learning to use contemporary word-processing equipment suggest that effective learning is often “active,” proceeding by self-initiated problem solving. The instructional manuals that accompany current word-processing systems often penalize and impede active learning. A set of instructional materials was constructed for a commercial word processor, specifically designed to support and encourage an active learning orientation. These “guided exploration” (GE) materials are modular, task oriented, procedurally incomplete, and address error recognition and recovery. Learners using the GE materials spent substantially less time yet still performed better on a transfer of learning posttest than learners using commercially developed self-study materials. Qualitative analysis of aspects of the learning protocols of participants suggested that active learning mechanisms may underlie this advantage. © 1985, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. All rights reserved.