You can remove the shock without unbolting the a-arms, but you will need to detach the swaybar and work it out in exactly the right manner. It helps to have two people, because one will need to push down on the suspension.
My opinion is that you do it the way the manual says, which is to remove the A-Arm bolt. I tried all sorts of different ways and wasted a few days, and in the end ended up doing it the manual way anyway, although I haven't tried removing the swaybar. The problem with doing it by removing the swaybar is that it's still a pain removing the strut assembly through the upper A-Arm. After removing the A-Arm bolt, it took less than 15 minutes to remove the strut, replace the springs, and put it back in. The hardest part was removing the A-Arm nut. Had to use a long breaker bar.
I did mine w/out removing sway bars. Removed a-arm bolt to swing out the cliper/rotor (left intact) and used stock floor jack jammed between the body and lower suspension arm to slowly push the suspension down, whole shocks/spring assy popped right out. 10 minute job per corner, one man required