Tools Used in Technical Writing

Posted In Tech Writing - By Sudipa Sarkar On Wednesday, November 19th, 2008 With 0 Comments






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Technical writers use a variety of tools to create usable information. Often referred to as a “tool set”, there is no defined list of tools that are used by all technical writers. However, broad categories of tools are used by most technical writers and communicators

Many technical writer use a basic word processing program such as Microsoft Word. Although this is adequate for short business documents, it is not designed for long and complex documents. For basic technical writing, writers need a tool that can:

  • Handle embedded graphics
  • Number steps and figure caption automatically
  • Create complex table
  • Maintain cross references
  • Generate Indexes and Table of Contents



Word Processors

There are a variety of Word Processors available, each with advantages and disadvantages. The most common are Framemaker by Adobe Systems, and MS-Word by Microsoft. OpenOffice.org (for details please see http://www.openoffice.org/) is a relatively recent tool that is growing in popularity.

Specialized Tools for Generating Help files

Although various outputs have been historically popular, the overall trend in help documentation output format is towards online help. There are many software packages designed for producing help files:

  • Author.IT – Author-IT, developed by Author-it Software Corporation (ASC), is an end-to-end solution for authoring, managing and publishing content to multiple deliverables. Essentially, Author-it allows all content to be designed, written and managed within one relational database.
  • DoctoHelp – A complete documentation solution, ComponentOne Doc-To-Help allows an author or a writer to create, edit, and publish documentation, and user manuals.
  • Help & Manual – A single-source help authoring and content management system for both single and multi-author editing. Working with Help & Manual is as easy as writing text with a word processor, while all content is saved as pure XML in the background.

  • HelpConsole – HelpConsole’s powerful visual design environment and extensive features make it easy to create and integrate professional help systems for Windows application, Web application, or online services.
  • HelpServer – A multiplatform, web-based solution for managing all help and documentation. It is a server that can be deployed as a content management system and as a help system. It is equipped with an authoring tool for managing complex document structures and help projects.

  • MadCap Flare – A complete authoring and publishing system with full support for maximum content re-use (single-sourcing). It allows topic-based content development, content reuse with conditional text, variables, snippets, outlines, and more Flexibility with XML and CSS
  • RoboHelp – A help authoring tool that empowers technical communicators, help authors, and web developers to build, manage, and publish content for help systems and standalone knowledge bases. It produces single source help content in a range of popular output format.
  • FrameMaker – Adobe FrameMaker is a desktop publishing (DTP) and Word Processing application popular for large documents. It is a powerful authoring and publishing solution for technical communicators and an essential tool for authoring and publishing technical documentation in multiple languages.

-Sudipa Sarkar