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Subject:Re: PC vs Mac From:Elna Tymes <etymes -at- LTS -dot- COM> Date:Sat, 12 Dec 1998 11:32:45 -0800
> Emily Davidson said:
> > I am just graduating from college and I want to invest in a new
> > computer. I want to be able to learn things like Framemaker, Quark,
> > and Robohelp on my own. My brother-in-law says everyone in the
> > professional world uses Mac, so I should get a Mac and learn the Mac
> > versions.
I have no idea what planet your brother-in-law came from, but here on Earth
Macs comprise less than 10% of total computer ownership, and they're heavily
concentrated in the graphics and ad agency end of the publishing industry. You
can verify this by looking up statistics on any of the major computer
publishing magazines, which periodically carry little box scores of what
platform is being used where.
If I were just starting out and looking for a job - just about any job - in the
computer business I'd get a PC and start learning the applications that come
with it, these days. That means Word and Excel, for starters, plus basic
system navigation and utilities. I'd immediately add the browser of your
choice (I prefer Netscape products, but then I have this thing about the Evil
Empire of the North) and get very comfortable with email and finding things on
the internet and the basics of constructing web pages, and then I'd learn
Framemaker and Robohelp. From that point on, what tools you acquire depend on
what direction you want to go.
If you want to become a technical writer, it will help to learn some elementary
graphics programs so that you can edit and manipulate graphics. It would help
if you learned how to construct and edit flowcharts, which CAN be done in
PowerPoint but are easier to do with Visio, the caveat being that it's
difficult to import Visio files into Frame. I'd then learn a bit of Unix so
that I could handle the basics, but not get heavily into Unix until I found a
career direction I liked.
If I wanted to become a graphic artist, I'd get really, really familiar with
Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator (and they're not bad additions for a technical
writer, either!) and I'd learn how to use a Mac, probably by buying a older,
used model instead of paying the higher costs of a new Mac. Having learned the
basic tools on a PC, I'd already know pretty much how to use the same tools on
That's for starters. What else you learn depends on what you want to do. In
your first year on the job I'll bet you'd find a need to learn about databases
and about the idiosyncracies of transferring files between different platforms
(e.g., older versions of Windows and most popular flavors of Unix have
8-character limits on filenames; Mac OS and the newer Windows environments
don't have any such limit; Windows and Unix environments prefix incoming Mac
filenames with a specific character; etc.)
Most writing jobs expect you to come in knowing the basics and realize you're
going to be doing some fairly intensive on-the-job learning in the first year.
Don't feel you have to do an intense six-month immersion in new tools before
you send out your resume.