Software For Students

Subject: Software For Students
From: "Marie C. Paretti" <mparetti -at- naxs -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2001 11:20:21 -0500

Before you get excited, I'm not trying to
a) start a Tool War
b) pretend that aspiring Tech Writers need only know the latest
and greatest tools to be on their way to a lucrative career leading
to retirement at age 40 with a yacht and beach house.

That said: Our English department is about to get a new computer lab, and I've
been asked to submit a wish list for software needed by our Professional
Writing Program. It's only a wish list, and I'll have to rank these tools.

Given that (as we've said ad nauseam on this list) tools don't make the
writer, and that it's more important to be able to learn and evaluate new tools
than to be the world's expert on BestDocument 12.17a, my goal is to ask for
things that students should be exposed to/aware of and that will give them
a leg up when they go job hunting (assuming, of course, that we've actually
managed first to teach them all to write).

Here's my preliminary list, based on my corporate work, what we've discussed
on this list over the years (archives and my memory), and input from mycolleagues:

1) Microsoft Office (this one is a given - it's University standard and all)
2) A screen capture tool such as SnagIt or PaintShopPro
3) Adobe Acrobat (full suite)
4) A Web authoring tool (Dreamweaver's at the top of my list there - and yes,
we'll also have them work with pure HTML so they understand what they're doing).
5) A page layout program such as Adobe PageMaker
6) Graphics programs such as Visio and Photoshop
7) FrameMaker
8) A HAT such as RoboHelp Office or ForeHelp (I put this last on the list b/c
while it's nice, you can create HTML-based Help using Dreamweaver, or working
directly with MS's HTML Help Workshop)

My questions:

1) Am I missing any major CATEGORIES of tools - i.e. different kinds of programs
students need to be able work with?

2) Have I completely missed a specific, essential tool?

3) Is there any overlap or anything I could eliminate (I won't get everything I ask
for, so I need to select judiciously)?

Again, our goal is not to focus on tools, but to expose them to the kinds of
programs they'll need once they get that real job, and give them some sense of
how to evaluate strengths and weaknesses, choose the right tool for the job, work
with the wrong tool when they have to, etc.


Dr. Marie C. Paretti
Assistant Director, Professional Writing Program
Department of English, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA 24061-0112
mparetti -at- vt -dot- edu (540) 231-7909

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