Re: tools to learn

Subject: Re: tools to learn
From: Ron Miller <RSMH -at- AOL -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 27 Feb 1995 13:52:47 -0500

I have been following this thread, and feel compelled to add my opinion.

I became a technical writer with a degree and Journalism/English. When I
graduated from College in 1981 I had zero computer experience, except one
disaster of a class in programming in a Main Frame enviroment (from 1977!).
I went out into the world, got involved in publications production and
learned about computers from the ground up.

I think what is important are good writing skills, an ability to learn on the
fly, and a famliarity with computers and software. Specific tools matter
little to me. I have learned to use many different programs over the years to
accomodate various clients. I remember using Xywrite 3.0 for DOS back in 1987
where I literally typed in commands for formatting on a command line at the
top of the screen. It was an interesting product, but the point is, I learned
how to use it.

I have also had to learn about a dizzying variety of subjects over the years
including 3-D Drawing & Animation, Client/Server Architecture, Pen-based
computing, and Imaging Systems. All of these were presented on various
platforms including DOS, Windows, Macintosh, and Wang VS 5000. I did what I
had to do--I learned on the fly, and this ability to be flexible is what any
technical writer truly requires.

The fact is the tools one knows today may be useless tomorrow--I haven't used
WordPerfect 5.1 too much lately, despite the fact I know it inside and out.
The field is constantly changing, and as technical professionals, we have to
be prepared to constantly change with it.

By the way, I do not know a desk-top publishing package per se, yet I have
been able to survive quite nicely as technical writer anyway. I find that a
team with a person devoted to design is often better than trying to make the
writer be a jack-of-all-trades. While I have a design sense, I am not a
graphic designer, I am a writer, and that is what people generally hire me to

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