Down Time

Subject: Down Time
From: "Gemmingen, Vic" <vlg -at- NCIINC -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 5 Feb 1998 10:58:46 -0600

Hello, group. Looking for advice.

Just started a new TW job documenting a new application that has yet to
be created. From what I can tell, it is a medium-sized application
written with Borland C++ Builder. I will be using Doc-to-Help to create
WinHelp files, and (once the right tool comes along) HTML help for
Netscape Navigator. I like Doc-to-Help, but the HTML tools for Netscape
are too "beta" in my opinion (at least as of today they are).

Maybe some tech writers don't have the luxury of a lot of down time, but
I do.

Here's the issue: What would you do to prepare for the task of creating
online help for an application that has yet to be created?

Here's what I've done so far:

Worked with Doc-to-Help (still a beginner, of course, until I'm using it
everyday to do my "real" work)
Studied C++ (no, I'm not a programmer, but have some coding skills)
Read existing documentation for applications our client already has [to
see what kind of documentation style(s) they've used].
(I plan to continue doing the things listed above to prepare for the
actual work).

What else can I do? Specifically, what have you learned from creating
online help systems in a crunch that has made you say, "Gee, if I only
would have had more time to prepare, this online help would have been so
much better." What things would you do to prepare to make online help
better? I have the luxury of preparing, even over-preparing if I want.

I guess the larger issue here is "What do you do during down time?"

I want to be productive, and sharpen my skills. I do not want to be
tempted to just surf the web all day doing "research," or write email
(ok . . . well, I am writing email right now).

Any advice appreciated.

Thanks very much.


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