Estimating time to author software help manual

Subject: Estimating time to author software help manual
From: "Jennifer C. Bennett" <fritillary -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 1 Aug 2006 14:59:34 -0500


I've been researching ways to estimate the time it will take to write a software user manual. I thought I'd ask this question here on TECHWR_L to see what others have done to estimate time. What kind of questions should I ask to help me make an estimate? If I were to ask for screenshots of each screen, menu and toolbar, how could I use this information to come up with a reasonable estimate? I figure this information might give me an idea of the complexity of the application, but I don't know how I would translate that to a ballpark figure of hours it would take to write the documentation and create graphics.

I asked the person I may be working with how long they think the user manual will be and they said they figured it would be 70-80% of a competitor's user manual. I did the calculation and 80% came out to 105 pages.

I will be using Word, which I am very familiar with. I will also be using Snag-It 8 to create detailed graphics - screenshots edited to show small sections of the screen with callouts, rather than just putting in one screenshot of the screen where the text is too tiny to read. I love making these; they seem to have been much more helpful to users that the full-screen screenshots I used to make, but they are time-consuming to create.

I look forward to reading how others have solved the estimating issue.

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