Re: Windows help article in Feb. Dr. Dobb's Journal

Subject: Re: Windows help article in Feb. Dr. Dobb's Journal
From: "D. Citron" <dcitron -at- GATE -dot- NET>
Date: Fri, 6 Jan 1995 20:45:57 GMT

Chuck Martin (TWriter -at- ix -dot- netcom -dot- com) wrote:
: I feel slighted, even offended. I'd like some feedback from again-fellow
: techwhirlers if my feelings are justified, or if I'm overreating. (I am
: already drafting a letter to the editor.)

: In the Feb., 1995, issue of Dr. Dobb's Journal, there is an article
: "RTFHelp for Windows Help files." In the article, the author claims to
: have come up with a tool to make Windows Help file development
: easier--for programmers!

: At least, that's the drift I get. The lead sentence: "At some time or
: another, every Windows application developer has to generate help
: files." As a member of the technical writing community, I feel a sense
: of outrage that, in 1995, having programmers write documentation is
: still considered the norm by software developers. That, in 1995,
: software developers still have not heard the voice of users, who have
: complained for more than a decade about poorly written documentation,
: typically written by the same programmers who coded the application.

: I feel slighted, invisible, like my profession is irrelevant.

: The kicker is, this tool takes a "simple tagged file--created with any
: text editor--and generates an RTF file that can be passed through the
: Windows help compiler." Isn't "simple tagged file" the grossest of
: oxymorons?

: The author further compounds his thesis by suggesting that "instead of
: requiring an expensive, hard-to-use Windows word processor, you can use
: any editor that can create ASCII text files." With all the money spent
: on developemtn tools, Word for Windows can typicall be bought for less
: than $100. Add-ons, such as Doc-To-Help or RoboHelp, cost a few hundred
: dollars more. Then there are the standalone tools, such as ForeHelp,
: that are similarly inexpensive, and they all save tons of time--but not
: as much time saves as when a good writer creates the Help.

: There's even a box comparing the steps for "normal" Help generation to
: the autor's, where "normal" takes three steps, and the author's takes
: four!

: To me, writing Help is a one-step process for software developers:

: 1. Hire a good technical writer.

You said it!

: Feedback and comments are appreciated.

If the excerpts quoted weren't so insulting and stupid, they'd be funny.

And they wonder why software documentation has such a poor reputation!

I gotta buy that magazine and read the whole ridiculous article. Thanks
for posting this!

"Live long and prosper -- without government interference!"
...Mr. Spock, before the NBC censors got to him, stardate 1966

David H. Citron * Tech Writer/Journalist/Copywriter * citron -at- reply -dot- net


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