Technical Writing ToolBox

A Blog on Technical Writing

The Love-Hate relationship between Technical Writers and Software Tools

 

FrameMaker, MS Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Quark Express, Visio, SnagIT, RoboHelp, Madcap Flare, Author IT, Acrobat, PageMaker, Wiki, XMetal, Oxygen… more and yet more tools.

This list can be easily made long enough to cover an entire page. With the evolution of  technical writing industry, there is an enormous growth in types and number of tools. Earlier, tools were not available for specific tasks but now the problem arises to choose the best tool out of so many different options available in the market.

With the increase in the number of tools in the market, the prime area of concern for technical writers has shifted from “mastering a single tool” to becoming “Proficient” in several tools. The world is full of unique things and our clients and employers happen to belong to that unique clan of people. What appeals to one employer may actually be disregarded by others, so to be an efficient technical writer of global competence, one must become proficient in all tools of the trade so that one can work according to the client needs and not by the tools one is just familiar with. Most employers will not hesitate to discard candidates who are not familiar with the tools used by existing technical writers in their organization.

Dusty Aldus Pagemaker 4.2 Box

Photo credit: Wikipedia

As new versions of tools are launched at very short intervals, it becomes difficult for the already load-struck technical writers to learn even the new functions of the same tool, leave alone learning absolutely new tools. But this negligence of new technology in turn creates problems, as the new technology provides high-efficiency, which is the requirement of the future technical writing industry.

Therefore, it has become essential for all technical writers to become truly the “Perfect of the Perfects” by attaining a high level of proficiency in most, if not all, kinds of Technical Writing tools available today. Gone are the days when technical writers used to get a job because they can format beautiful looking documents in Word. Now they must learn about XML, DITA, Snippets in RoboHelp and video creation in Captivate.

Adobe InDesign upgrade from PageMaker

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Unless we are familiar with commonly used software in the field, we will find it really hard to survive in the highly competitive world where the success and failure are separated by a thin line. In order to face the rising competition, we must act now to climb the skill ladder to remain high above the windy seas of global markets and secure a stable and peaceful place at the earliest.

In the words of Antoine de Saint, “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

Do you also have a love-hate relationship with software tools? Are you among those who believe that software tools are not important for technical writers and we must focus only on the writing skills or do you see the benefit of learning software tools used by technical writers? Leave a comment and let me know.

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3 responses to “The Love-Hate relationship between Technical Writers and Software Tools

  1. Niels Grundtvig Nielsen April 24, 2012 at 11:08 am

    “Perfection is achieved … when there is nothing left to take away” Good point! and I think it supports the idea of separating content from tool; or at least, putting content first. To meet different requirements, I quite often write in a plain text editor. Sometimes I’ll add minimal tagging to help importing into a specific programme for formatting and output. I’d like the chance to more with DITA, but then I’d need someone to help with xslt.

  2. Pingback: The 11 Best Tools for Technical Writers (Plus Pro Tips That Improve Your Productivity) – Netherlingua

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