Re: Essential software/programming skills for TC?

Subject: Re: Essential software/programming skills for TC?
From: Phil <philstokes03 -at- googlemail -dot- com>
To: Janet Swisher <jmswisher -at- gmail -dot- com>, TECHWR-L list <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 7 Dec 2010 21:50:09 +0800

Thanks Janet, your advice is very helpful to me, and the heads up regarding version control software (which I'd never heard of till now!).

I was starting to think along these lines (categorising) myself. Prior to this mail, I was thinking along the lines of:


I have a working knowledge of HTML and CSS, but both need extending and (more to the point) practicing.

I've used OpenSource bitmap and vector programmes, and thought I had enough working knowledge from using these, but frankly having recently trialled the demo of InDesign with Photoshop and Illustrator, the latter are a completely different kettle of fish compared to the 'toys' that I learned on (GIMP/Inkpad). I already use QuarkXpress, but it doesn't seem very popular in the industry compared to InDesign from what I can tell.

Thanks again.

I'd welcome further thoughts from any others that may wish to share.


On 7 Dec 2010, at 22:11, Janet Swisher wrote:

> On Tue, Dec 7, 2010 at 5:44 AM, Phil <philstokes03 -at- googlemail -dot- com> wrote:
>> While I accept that in some sense this 'unanswerable' being dependent on employers/industries, I would nevertheless appreciate opinions on the following:
>> What are the essential software/programming skills a new tech communicatior MUST possess?
>> To give some context, I've been a 'writer' in various capacities for many years, needing little other than Word to do my work. Now in my 40s, I'm "retraining" in the sense of doing an MA in Tech Comm. While the MA is great for the 'soft' skills (theory of ID, Comm Planning, Audience Analysis, Usability etc) I find myself overwhelmed when looking at the trade in the variety of software/programming skills discussed. To name a few: QuarkXP, InDesign, Framemaker, Flare, RoboHelp, Dreamweaver, XML, Html, Java, Python, various C languages, Json, JQuery - and those are just off the top of my head.
>> Which, if any of these (and if not these, what else?) can I _NOT_ afford to have missing from my CV/Resume?
> Phil,
> You should think in terms of *categories* of tools, and learn at least
> one tool from each category very well. The categories I would consider
> essential in the software industry (other industries may differ) are:
> * Authoring tool for print-oriented comprehensive texts. FrameMaker
> tends to be the gold standard in this category, but many TWs work for
> years in Word or other tools. If you don't learn FrameMaker, make sure
> you know the advanced, book-oriented features of Word, such as headers
> and footers, TOCs, and indexes.
> * A help-authoring tool, such as RoboHelp, Flare, or AuthorIT.
> * A presentation-independent mark-up language. At a minimum, learn
> HTML and CSS, as they are widely used. To be on the cutting edge,
> focus on HTML5 and CSS3. You can also learn an XML syntax such as DITA
> or DocBook, but not in place of HTML.
> * A graphics editing tool. Know the difference between bitmap and
> vector graphics, and when to use each. Preferably become familiar with
> a tool for each type.
> * A source-control system (e.g., VSS, Subversion, Mercurial).
> Knowing something about programming is not essential to being a
> techwriter, but in my opinion it definitely helps in the software
> industry. You do not have to become a programmer, but it helps if you
> can read code and understand programmer-speak. If you learn to program
> in one language, you can learn to use any other language. Finding a
> good teacher, course, or book is more important that what the language
> is.
> --Janet


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Essential software/programming skills for TC?: From: Phil
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