Tech Writing: The Next Generation

Subject: Tech Writing: The Next Generation
From: David Handy <davidh -at- automsoft -dot- com>
To: "'techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com'" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 17 Nov 1999 18:03:46 -0000

Hi all,
What do tech-whirlers think are the ideal formats and media for
technical documentation? Put another way, what's your idea of
the perfect system for writing and delivering large documents?
By any chance is that system also the most up-to-date tools-wise?
These are broad questions, I know, but my boss has given me the
novel brief of writing the documentation for the next release of
our software product with the most up-to-date media available.
To quote him, he wants "the next generation of user documentation"
to accompany the product release.

I know (as does my boss) that the medium is the means to an end;
still it's nice to get a free rein like this - and frankly I'm stumped
as to what the 'next generation' of user docs might look like. We
make an object-oriented database for fairly high-tech users, mostly
industrial engineers. I've written our current user manual in Frame-
Maker (100-plus A4 pages); we ship it in print and, with a few
tweaks, as a PDF. It contains a few dozen JPGs and several tables.
The product is fully supported Help-wise also.

Aside from improving the general layout and print quality of the
manual, are there any advances in tools or media treatment that
anyone can recommend? I ask particularly about ways to upgrade
the electronic documentation. For example, are there good
arguments in favour of delivering the manual in HTML? As it is,
the current PDF is fully cross-referenced with a live TOC and live

I did a big spend a few months back on Frame, Photoshop,
RoboHELP Office and FullShot so I'd rather not buy any new
tools unless they're really going to transform how I create
the docs.

Please mail me directly as I receive the digest version of the

Thanks in advance,
David Handy
Technical Writer
Automsoft International
Dublin, Ireland
davidh -at- automsoft -dot- com

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