A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.


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Extreme documentation is an agile methodology for developing documentation in small to medium-sized teams in the face of vague or rapidly changing requirements.



Development, Use and Profitability of Translation Memory Systems

Product life spans and documentation production times are becoming increasingly short and the expenditures for documentation are rising simultaneously with increasing product complexity. Hence, translation projects are becoming more costly as the parallel increasing documentation complexity.

Knauf, Ansgar. TC-FORUM (1999). Articles>Documentation>Localization>Machine Translation


Did Technical Documentation Play a Role in the White House's Decision to Move to Drupal?

The reasons for the White House's decision to run its Web site, whitehouse.gov, on the open source content management system Drupal are being discussed on various Web sites. Alongside Drupal's functionality, flexibility and openness, some are suggesting that Drupal's documentation was also a key factor for deciding to use this system.

Pratt, Ellis. Cherryleaf (2009). Articles>Documentation>Content Management>Government


Differences in Use Between OpenOffice Writer and Word   (PDF)

This document summarizes the differences in use between OpenOffice.org Writer 1.1.x and Microsoft Word (various versions).

OpenOffice.org (2007). Articles>Documentation>Word Processing>OpenOffice


Differentiating Online Help from Printed Documentation   (PDF)

Hemmi discusses the differences between online help and printed documentation and suggests how technical communicators can make the most of both media.

Hemmi, Jane A. Intercom (2002). Design>Documentation


Digital Printing for Software Manuals

Digital printing technology ('print on demand') is excellent for producing printed software documentation.

TechScribe (2010). Articles>Documentation>Prepress>Printing


Discovering Relationship Tables

Lately I’ve been creating context-sensitive help for an online application. As part of my strategy, I’ve been trying to follow Theresa Putkey’s advice in “Usability in Context-Sensitive Help.” In her article, Theresa recommends providing more than just the steps for a specific task in the context-sensitive help window. Instead, she says to show more contextual links, including answers to why, when, and who questions, because too frequently the user who searches for help may have needs outside the specific task you describe.

Johnson, Tom H. I'd Rather Be Writing (2009). Articles>Documentation>Online>Help


Discovering Relationship Tables

Lately I’ve been creating context-sensitive help for an online application. As part of my strategy, I’ve been trying to follow Theresa Putkey’s advice in “Usability in Context-Sensitive Help.” In her article, Theresa recommends providing more than just the steps for a specific task in the context-sensitive help window. Instead, she says to show more contextual links, including answers to why, when, and who questions, because too frequently the user who searches for help may have needs outside the specific task you describe.

Johnson, Tom H. I'd Rather Be Writing (2009). Articles>Information Design>Documentation>Help


Distributing Cross-Platform, Cross-Browser HTML Help Using the Microsoft Java Applet   (PDF)

In a previous article we discussed what browser-based HTML Help is, and how you can use the HTML Help ActiveX control to create and distribute web-based HTML Help to Microsoft Internet Explorer Users. In this article we'll explain how to use the Microsoft Java Applet to create and distribute Help systems that can be viewed by an Java-enabled browser.

ComponentOne (1999). Articles>Documentation>Online>Help


Distributing Web-based HTML Help

In this article we discuss what browser-based HTML Help is, the sitemap file that's behind the HTML Help table of contents, how the HTML Help ActiveX control HHCTRL.OCX interprets and displays this sitemap file, and how you can automatically distribute HHCTRL.OCX.

ComponentOne (1998). Articles>Documentation>Online>Help


Review: DITA 101 by Anne Rockley, Steve Manning, and Charles Cooper

This review strongly recommends DITA 101 for its clear presentation of DITA basics, with practical examples and easy to understand language. Previously, authors and managers would need to have read the full technical specification to attempt to gather such information.

Mulligan, Peg. PegMulligan.com (2009). Articles>Reviews>DITA>Documentation


DITA Applications: Using Topics for Narrative Documents

DITA is applicable to many publishing applications, including traditional narrative documents that don't seem, at first look, like candidates for ditification.

Kimber, Eliot. Really Strategies Blog (2010). Articles>Information Design>DITA>Documentation


DITA for Help

Can DITA be used as a Help authoring technology? Superficially, of course it can! The DITA Open Toolkit includes an HTML Help transformer, an Eclipse Help transformer, and an HTML transformer (which can also generate some sort of Table of Contents). So isn't it obvious then? DITA is perfect for Help authoring. Or is it? Looking a bit deeper, it's not so obvious. Can I include context-hooks in my content? Can I specify a popup link? Can I build a modular Help system? If I can't, then DITA is probably not suitable for Help.

Self, Tony. HyperWrite (2007). Articles>Documentation>XML>DITA


DITA Infocenter

A searchable knowledge base of specifications for DITA users.

DITA Infocenter. Resources>Documentation>XML>DITA


DITA Open Toolkit Customization

This paper outlines a course given by Adena Frazier of Suite Solutions--a course which is highly recommended for anyone who wants to get the most of the OT. This paper outlines the most important processes, but it leaves out many of the details, tips, and debugging notes that were included in the course. Note, too, that errors easily could have crept in, and some details are bound to change for later versions of the toolkit. (We used version 1.4.1) So it makes a lot of sense to take the course, even if you find the outline useful.

Sun Microsystems (2008). Articles>Documentation>XML>DITA


DITA Specialization

This area provides access to my DITA specialization tutorial and other DITA specialization-related information and materials.

XIRUSS. Books>Documentation>XML>DITA


A DITA Wizard

Two of the oft-quoted benefits of DITA, the Darwin Information Typing Architecture, are 'single-sourcing' and 'content re-use'. These benefits do not only apply to the commonly-accepted definition of technical documents, but to many other forms of documents from outside the technical communicator's realm.

Self, Tony. HyperWrite (2007). Articles>Documentation>XML>DITA


DITA, DocBook and the Art of the Document

Both the DITA and the DocBook specification are quite alive and well in organizations, and each is evolving into its own distinct application niches, with DITA looking to be turning into the default standard for large scale enterprises, while DocBook works more effectively at the small to intermediate level. What’s perhaps more interesting is the Microsoft Word, even with support for XML as provided by OOXML, is not making as much of an inroad in the structured document market, in great part because it is fairly difficult to constrain people’s use of the word-processing program to a limited, finite subset of potential styles.

Cagle, Kurt. XML.com (2008). Academic>Documentation>DocBook>DITA


Diverging Directions for Tech Comm: Social Media or Structured Authoring

Two powerful trends in tech comm seem to be moving in different directions: social media and structured authoring. I have used a wiki as my primary format for documentation for the past year and a half. I tried to corral a group of volunteer technical writers to edit and update the wiki, because I embraced the idea that collective intelligence beats the individual thinker in the long run. But even the most advanced wikis don’t have a structured authoring backend.

Johnson, Tom H. I'd Rather Be Writing (2011). Articles>Documentation>Information Design>XML


Dividing It Up, With Any Crowd

When you think of the crowd, you probably think about a specific mass of people who use the software and hardware that we document every day. The interesting thing about the crowd is that it doesn’t necessarily mean people outside of the enterprise in which you’re working. There are people in your enterprise who can do a lot to help you with the documentation, too. Developer, product managers, QA analysts. They all have knowledge that you can and should tap.

Nesbitt, Scott. DMN Communications (2009). Articles>Documentation>Social Networking>Technical Writing


Do Community Efforts Work?

Some of my projects include community-involved documentation. When you work for a church, it’s not hard to find dedicated members willing and committed to sacrificing a few hours for a higher cause. To harness community efforts, I gathered up a large pool of volunteer names and formed a listserv. I communicated project needs with the listserv members and asked for help. Despite some contributions, the majority of volunteers are hindered by too many obstacles — access to information, time, standards, and more — to contribute much. As such, I’ve begun to change my expectations from content creation to content review and feedback.

Johnson, Tom H. I'd Rather Be Writing (2010). Articles>Documentation>Community Building>Technical Writing


Do Not Forget Bibliographical Data in Technical Documentation!

Information products, e.g. manuals, drawings etc, must, besides the technical message, contain certain formal data, which too often is left out. Proper formal data contributes to good order and favours the producer as well as the user of information products.

Rullgård, Åke. TC-FORUM (1999). Articles>Documentation>Style Guides


Do Short Topics Make Information More Findable?

Shorter topics do add more little targets in the field. So the user has a higher chance of hitting one of the targets, but it’s unlikely that any of the targets will provide the exact answer the user is looking for.

Johnson, Tom H. I'd Rather Be Writing (2013). Articles>Web Design>Search Engine Optimization>Documentation


Do Technical Writers Need a Help Applications Course?   (peer-reviewed)

Weber State University is in the process of developing a major in Professional & Technical Writing (PTW). Currently, students enroll as English majors with an Emphasis in PTW, which consists of four courses in PTW that students take in addition to other English courses. The minor consists of the same PTW courses plus two interdisciplinary classes, which are determined in consultation with an advisor. The problem is that students who wish to do PTW must take the same number of literature classes as other English majors. Often they do not receive instruction in document design, other than a cursory treatment in the service course. A full major would better prepare students to enter the job market without losing connections to critical theory and humanistic approaches to texts-connections they receive in English Department courses.

McShane, Becky Jo. CPTSC Proceedings (2003). Articles>Education>Documentation>Help


Doc or Die

This blog discusses documents and information designs “in the wild" - especially those that are exceptionally good or exceptionally bad.

Doc or Die. Resources>Documentation>Information Design>Blogs


The Doc Whisperer

Doc whisperers are more commonly known as "senior technical writers", but what's in a name anyway? So if you want to be a great tech writer—start whispering.

Brooke, Andrew. Tech Writer's World, A (2009). Articles>Documentation>Technical Writing



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