TECHWR_L: Using MS-Word for TW

Subject: TECHWR_L: Using MS-Word for TW
From: "Chris Knight" <cknight -at- attcanada -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 2 Dec 2000 13:33:07 -0800

At 10:06 AM 11/30/00 -0700, Christensen, Kent wrote:
>Receiving digests of this list, my mind boggles at the number of posts on
>this subject, and I must admit to having not read every word. I'd like to
>add my bit, anyway ...
>WORD is not a tool for electronic transfer of information to end users.

Actually, people all over the world use Word "for electronic transfer of
information to end users",
IF their "users" "use" the information by editing it into another document.
They need electronically editable, not a picture, which is what both paper
and PDF are.

This sort of thing happens all the time in the real world, and Word is the
most commonly used tool to do it.
It is quite a capable tool, too.

Then Dan Emory wrote:

> Good grief!! who has suggested that Word documents be delivered to end
> It would be nice, however, if you could reliably print long documents out
of Word
> to paper or PDF, but of course, that would be asking too much wouldn't it.

On the first point, see above.
On the second point, one can, if one is a skilled Word user, do exactly
I am a contractor, mostly work in telecommunications, and have used Word to
produce both printed
and PDF-delivered user guides (300 pages would probably be the longest) for
highly complex subjects.
With rave reviews from the actual readers, and their managers and trainers.

Yes Word has problems. So does every other tool, even Dan's beloved
My present client has bought into the "if you're not using FrameMaker,
you're not doing REAL technical writing"
religion, and there is not a day that I don't wish that I was using Word.
Not because Frame can't produce the same end-results, but because Word lets
me work several times more productively
Sometimes productivity is everything.

Word is capable, cheap, and ubiquitous. The latter characteristic, however,
means that it don't get no respect
--especially from tool snobs and people who think Bill Gates is Satan.
It also means that many people underestimate how much training writers need
if they are to get a high level
of performance and output quality from Word.

With my current client, everybody other than the tech writers uses Word.
In telecom, this is a big switch: up to 2-3 years ago, everyone used UNIX
and FrameMaker thereon.
Now, anyone not actually developing server-side applications (UNIX) uses a
PC, and Word.
Many have found the transistion frustrating, and I often have to help out.
They use Word to produce proposals, design documents, test plans, etc.
These documents require much the same degree of word processing skill that
"real" tech writers
need on their user guides, but management (despite their own difficulties
making the switch), hasn't
seen fit to provide any training on Word for these users.

So it goes.

Christopher Knight, Technical Communicator
E-mail: cknight -at- attcanada -dot- ca
Phone: (604) 877-0074

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