Re: Recommended apps to learn as a new tech writer...

Subject: Re: Recommended apps to learn as a new tech writer...
From: Lisa Wright <lisawright -at- mail -dot- utexas -dot- edu>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 27 Aug 2005 11:08:17 -0500

I think a few people have touched on this, but I think it's worth emphasizing. More important than learning a given tool is to learn how tools in that space are put together, which makes your skills infinitely transferable. Also, if you learn them in the context of doing something related to tech writing, it will be even more valuable. Learn the tool, but that's just a starting point.

For example, if you take a computer-based class in document design that uses a recent version of QuarkXPress as a tool, then you will be miles ahead. You will understand the basics of a lot of different elements--page layout, fonts, graphics. You will also understand how to maximize the tool to be efficient--the use of styles, master pages, etc. You will not be an expert but you will know that such concepts exist and when you see them in other contexts, they will make sense. You will also be able to apply the software skills to InDesign. (For those who are going to say that page layout is not terribly relevant in today's online world, think of an equivalent that works. This just happens to be the path I took and it served me well and still does today.)

With that said, I'd learn the following tools/technologies:

* Dreamweaver/web publishing. Learn HTML and other web technologies.
* MS Word/Office. It's ubiquitous.
* RoboHelp or another online help tool. Very important: understand how online information is organized and why. Understand all the pieces--navigation, glossary links (see thread this week?), etc. The MS help toolkit (can't remember the name) and basic JavaHelp toolkit from Sun are stripped down and can really help you understand the basics.
* Adobe Acrobat and how you get docs into PDF format. This isn't nearly as complicated as it used to be, but not that many people who want them know how to do it.
* XML-based document production, not sure what tools that means. Maybe combine this with the web publishing above. XML is tricky, because it is abstract. I have yet to go to an "XML for Technical Writers" workshop that was useful. Understanding the difference between semantic and formatting markup is helpful. I learned more about XML working on an XML-based legal matters system than I ever have in tech writing.

FWIW, we are implementing a content management system that is not XML based. I wish it were because there are some collaborative editing tools that I would love to have, and I'd be able to combine content differently.



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Re: Recommended apps to learn as a new tech writer...: From: Sankara R
Re: Recommended apps to learn as a new tech writer...: From: Lou Quillio

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