RE: New Tech Writers Group: API Tech Writers [long]

Subject: RE: New Tech Writers Group: API Tech Writers [long]
From: "Lydia Wong" <lydiaw -at- fpoint -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 6 Sep 2001 16:27:03 -0400

Tina asked:

"umm... sorry, what is API and SDK?"

Don't be sorry for asking, Tina. I should have explained my acronyms!

API = Application Programming Interface
SDK = Software Developers Kit

Technical writers who document APIs and SDKs often write material for
internal users and outside developers, documenting the interface provided by
their product.

For example, the company I work for, FarPoint Technologies, Inc., creates
ActiveX and DLL controls for Windows developers. As a Windows developer, our
user might create an application in Visual Basic. He or she will purchase
one of our controls, such as a tab control or a spreadsheet control, to use
in his or her application. For example, if you were a developer creating a
checkbook application, instead of writing code to create the register
display, to calculate the formulas used for handling dollar amounts, etc.,
you could purchase our spreadsheet control and drop it into your Visual
Basic application.

Because most users want a customized appearance, as well as the capability
to make the control act in certain ways given certain user inputs, we
provide an interface that works in Visual Basic. So, when a developer using
our control wants to have his application sort checkbook entries when the
user clicks a column, the developer sets properties and writes code
responding to events in our control.

We tech writers document the properties and events available for the
control. Properties include things like the background color, the font, how
the control responds to certain actions, etc. Events occur in response to
users actions, like clicking the control, double-clicking the control,
moving the focus from the control to another control, etc.

This is only one example of API/SDK writing (the one I know best!). Most API
and SDK writers face similar challenges, though, because we are doing
similar things. Most of us provide a detailed, complete reference guide to
the interface for our products. Many of us also produce a task-based user's
guide that describes how to work with our product to do specific things.
Other documentation might include quick reference guides, white papers, and
sample code projects. Some, but not all, of us know enough programming to
write simple code examples or even small applications to test and document
the product.

I know this is a long answer! But I hope it conveys some of the topics we
might be discussing in the group, as well as more information about API and
SDK writing.

Lydia Wong
Technical Writer
FarPoint Technologies, Inc.


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Re: New Tech Writers Group: API Tech Writers: From: TDean

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