Re: Current trends in Authoring Tools?

Subject: Re: Current trends in Authoring Tools?
From: Nancy Allison <maker -at- verizon -dot- net>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Thu, 08 Feb 2007 12:59:25 -0600 (CST)

Gene says:

>As far as the product research and writing aspect of my work
>is concerned, I have NEVER been as productive with ANY
>authoring tool as I was during the days when I hand-wrote my
>document manuscripts with a #2 pencil and then sent the sheets
>over to a team of production specialists.

Because of single-sourcing and content management systems, we may end up going back to those days. What worries me is that the templates for the output may not be designed by people who have effective technical communication on their minds.

Already, newspapers, books, and magazines have terrible line breaks, hyphenation, widows, and orphans, because evidently no one who cares about these issues is in control of the output templates!

I get frustrated sometimes, struggling with Frame or Word to automate something, and it would be great to hand my text over to someone who understood what was important about the layout of technical information. But I have grave doubts that the next generation of single-sourced, content-managed publications is going to be a step up in quality.

Then again . . . I dimly recall many years ago at the dawn of time when I worked as an editor with a production department at DEC, whose job was to input the changes I marked. The DEC system, whatever it was, occasionally would randomly delete files. If the production people couldn't find the most recent version of my document, they'd simply work from an older file and give it back to me without mentioning that the intermediate version had been lost. I'd look at the new printout and wonder if I was losing my mind, as I saw the reappearance of errors I was certain I had caught two iterations ago!

I guess it's a choice between losing your mind with frustration as you struggle to do your own typesetting and automating, and losing your mind with frustration as you deal with some supremely indifferent production person who blithely hands you an obsolete file (and presumably retires to chuckle at the moans emanating from your cubicle. Not good moans, either.)

Nancy, reminiscing

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