Re: Important software for T. W.s

Subject: Re: Important software for T. W.s
From: Dave Brown <david -dot- brown -at- tait -dot- co -dot- nz>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 07 Dec 2004 11:14:30 +1300

Hi Jess,

While I agree with the responses that analytical thinking and the ability to write/communicate are very important, in my experience, it is always a bonus to be able to 'hit the ground running', or in other words, not require training in the tools. However, in an interview, my emphasis would be on transferability of skills.

All jobs will require some form of word processor or page layout program. Any tool has its strengths and weaknesses for any particular job. Most companies use MS Word in some department so knowledge there never hurts. Framemaker use is generally limited to certain departments like Tech Writing.

Both FM and Word can be learnt on the job (If I can, anyone else can), but if you are familiar with the one you're to use it helps. If good templates already exist for FM, there is not too much a new writer can do wrong. Word on the other hand...

Some companies may use Pagemaker, InDesign or Freehand etc... for their Technical docs, but these are certainly much less common.

Whatever application you use, I'd expect familiarity with the use of styles. You should be familiar with headers/footers, tables, numbering... all the basics of word processors. (And if you send me a CV in Word, expect me to examine it).

Depending on the job you are going for, you may require some familiarity with illustration/drawing tools. Again, there is a range of options, and most do similar things in similar ways.

I would like an employee to understand the differences between vector and raster/bitmapped graphics, and be familiar with at least the common file formats (and their pros/cons).

For vector illustrations, the immediately obvious options would be CorelDraw, Illustrator, Freehand.

For raster graphics, options include Photoshop, The GIMP, Photopaint, Paintshop.

Each application does pretty much the same thing - some better than others. But the functionality is there - usually the biggest issue is knowing where its hidden.

If you're familiar with Acrobat it's a bonus. If your familiar with postscript, even better, but certainly not required!

I'd expect you to have some basic file management skills, so knowing the basics of at least one OS helps.

In my personal opinion, it is a Tech Writer's job to be curious and that flows over into being able to work out how their software works. I do however see some writers who are not the least bit interested in it.

Now, before anyone accuses me of focusing too much on tools, let me emphasis that tool knowledge is just one thing of many that I look at. While people we have hired lately have not had experience in FM, they have been able to demonstrate transferable skills in these areas on top of good analytical/communication skills.

Also check out: (broken by frames)

My 2c

Jess P said the following on 6 Dec 04 10:35 a.m.:

IN order of importance, what are the most Importent software
applications to know as a .T. W.?



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