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.



Embedded Help – Meeting the Needs of Your Users   (PDF)

Designing and developing an embedded help solution involves several stages. A successful solution starts with identifying user wants and needs. As you sort through these needs, identify common threads and design a solution that addresses these common threads. Consistency, flexibility, and experimentation are keys to developing a successful solution. Your design should be intuitive to use, and should provide users with the options they need. As you design your solution, consider your develop and maintenance requirements. You want the time you invest in the first version of your solution to pay off for future releases.

Mueller, Paul. STC Proceedings (1999). Articles>Documentation>Online>Help


Embedding Videos into Madcap Flare

One of Flare’s shortcomings is the inability to easily embed video files. However, if you use the Camtasia Studio’s Express Show format as your video format (and you choose the SWF option), you can insert the video into Flare by inserting the video as if it were a picture. Here’s a two-minute screencast showing the processing for inserting a video into Flare. You can also put the video in a drop-down hotspot.

Johnson, Tom H. I'd Rather Be Writing (2009). Presentations>Documentation>Screencasts>Madcap Flare


Emotional States of Computer Users in Times of Frustration

If there’s one undeniable characteristic of the frustrated computer user, it’s that her patience is gone. She will not be slowly flipping through the user manual. Notice her jerky movements. If she turns to the help (which she doesn’t here), she’ll search for keywords, skim rapidly, click quickly from topic to topic. As we write for users in this state of mind, we have to remember the hurry.

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


Empirical Proof for Presenting Screen Captures in Software Documentation   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

None of the previous studies on screen captures addressed the functions in the framework. There was no empirical research on any of the four functions of screen captures. This article presents our research on these functions. Each section starts with a brief explanation of the function. Next, we illustrate the screen capture designs used to test the function. The remainder of each section explains the setup and results of the empirical study. The article ends with some general conclusions about the functions of screen captures.

Gellevij, Mark and Hans Van Der Meij. Technical Communication Online (2004). Articles>Documentation>Graphic Design>Screen Captures


An End-to-End Process for Creating and Validating Scenario-Driven Documentation   (PDF)

This paper describes the end-to-end approach we used to create and validate scenario-driven information for a new product. This approach focuses as much on designing and testing information as it does on writing the information.

Newman-Collins, Ann and Linda Streitfeld. STC Proceedings (2000). Presentations>Documentation>Assessment


The Engineer as Rational Man: The Problem of Imminent Danger in a Non-Rational Environment   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Mine safety instruction manuals and training guides reflect an engineering perspective based on the concept of a Rational Man, a perspective which obsstructs effective risk management.

Sauer, Beverly A. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (1992). Articles>Documentation>Risk Communication>Rhetoric


Enhancing The Review Process: Giving And Receiving Constructive Feedback   (PDF)

Clear, positive feedback can contribute significantly toward improving the quality of printed and on-line documentation. Wizen feedback is negative, unclear, or incomplete, however, the accuracy and quality of a document can suffer, and misunderstandings between colleagues can result. Those who are responsible for reviewing documental ion can enhance that process by knowing what type of feedback to provide and how to offer it in a clear and constructive way. Those who request feedback on their documentation projects also can enhance the review process by clearly identifying the project scope and specifying their evaluation needs to their reviewers.

Pritchard, Laurie N. STC Proceedings (1994). Presentations>Documentation>Workflow


Enterprise Agility: SOX and Enterprise Information Integration   (PDF)

The intent of Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) can be characterized as risk reduction: reduce errors, inhibit fraud, and provide shareholders with transparent equal-access to material knowledge. But implementation is principally procedural controls and documentation, under threat of penalty. The vague parts of SOX are where the real leverage lies: principles of intent, and corporate transparency.

Dove, Rick. Paradigm Shift International (2005). Articles>Knowledge Management>Information Design>Documentation


Environmental Impact Statements in The Netherlands   (PDF)

Composing an Environmental Impact Statement is a complex task, not only in the USA but also in The Netherlands. Responsible for this difficulty are the comprehensive technical nature of the EIS, the diversity of the audience, and the political character of the outcome: the final text is a compromise between all those involved in the environmental debate. These factors may easily lead to voluminous statements. Communication specialists can help in this process: by writing the obliged summary, by editing the final copy, and (for those with management skills) by coordinating the environmental debate.

Bulter, Willem J. STC Proceedings (1995). Articles>Documentation>Environmental>Netherlands


Error Accessing and Displaying CHM Files: Reasons and Solutions

So, you've got in trouble. Some or even all of your CHM files seem to have gotten corrupted. They show a "The page cannot be displayed" error in the left-hand pane of the CHM viewer. There are several possible reasons why your CHM e-books and documentation files are unreadable.

Crane, Dennis. Dr. Explain (2006). Articles>Documentation>Help>Microsoft Windows


Error Message Guidelines

An error message is text that is displayed to describe a problem that has occurred that is preventing the user or the system from completing a task. The problem could result in data corruption or loss. Other message types include confirmations, warnings, and notifications. The guidelines in this topic are intended to help you write clear error messages that are easy to localize and useful for customers.

Microsoft (2006). Articles>Documentation>Writing>Technical Writing


Estimating Scope and Schedule for a Help Project   (PDF)

During this session, we will learn how to create a topic list to determine project scope, and then we will begin to calculate how long it will take produce all of these topics. When we’re done, you will have a methodology for doing this for your own project.

Deaton, Mary M. STC Proceedings (1997). Articles>Project Management>Documentation>Help


Estimating the Cost of High-Quality Documentation   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The cost of developing a typical end user document at Cadence Design Systems is about $40,000. The cost of not providing complete and completely accurate documentation can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Cover, Martha, David Cooke and Matt Hunt. Technical Communication Online (1995). Articles>Documentation>Pricing


The Ethic of Expediency: Classical Rhetoric, Technology,and the Holocaust   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)

Argues that blindly following guidelines and working for efficiency or expediency while not being critical of what one writes for organizations can be dangerous.

Katz, Steven B. College English (1992). Articles>Documentation>Technical Writing>Ethics


European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Associations

EBLIDA is the European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Associations. We are an independent umbrella association of national library, information, documentation and archive associations and institutions in Europe.

EBLIDA. Organizations>Documentation>Regional>Europe


Evaluating and Choosing a Service Provider   (PDF)

Small- to middle-sized companies are often dependent on third-party service providers to complete tasks related to documentation production. Formally evaluating service providers is one way for documentation managers to ensure that their company and documentation team are getting maximum service, top quality, and competitive prices. Evaluations must be carefully planned and implemented in order to produce reliable results. The planning phase lets the documentation managers “set the stage” for an evaluation by defining and communicating the main objectives. The subsequent implementation phase lets participants gather the key information required to select the best service provider.

Weirich, Margaret. STC Proceedings (2003). Articles>Documentation>Outsourcing>Assessment


Evaluating Online Help

Online help excels in providing quick access to concise information - but only when the users choose to access it. Delivering high-quality online help that satisfies all users is a hard task. Several good help authoring tools make help generation and maintenance easier, but to create good content that is highly effective is still a huge challenge. Experience shows that even after following quality guidelines or best practices, the final output may still not be good enough to satisfy the needs of your users. Heuristic evaluation of an online help system provides an initial assessment of both quality and usability. This article presents a summary of key points for evaluating online help, though you will likely want to expand the heuristics with company or product-centric metrics suitable to your application.

Dalvi, Meghashri. Usability Interface (2008). Articles>Documentation>Help>Assessment


Evaluating Software Documentation Projects Quickly

Often when we start a new job, or are dropped into an existing software documentation project at our current job, getting up to speed is overwhelming. This article suggests steps to quickly assess the situation, develop a plan, and begin writing.

Bleiel, Nicky. TCWorld (2010). Articles>Documentation>Assessment>Software


Evaluating the Effect of Iconic Linkage on the Usability of Software User Guides   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This study investigates whether Iconic Linkage--the use of the identical wording to present the same information recurring in a text--can improve the usability of user guides. Iconic Linkage is a writing strategy that potentially allows users to work more quickly and effectively and which promotes better retention of information. The usefulness of Iconic Linkage was tested in a laboratory-based usability study that combined: 1) objective task-based evaluation; and 2) users' subjective evaluations of a software program used in recording parliamentary debates. A post-test survey designed to test subjects' retention of information contained in the user guides was also administered. The study shows that Iconic Linkage significantly improved usability of the user guide: in all tasks, subjects worked more effectively and made fewer mistakes; while in the three timed tasks, subjects completed the tasks much more quickly. Subjects also gave higher ratings for the software and their retention of information was noticeably improved.

Byrne, Jody. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2005). Articles>Documentation>Software>Usability


Evaluation Toolbox for Aviation Technical Publications

This article describes the Evaluation Toolbox (Chaparro et al., 2004) - an aid to understand the process of evaluating the usability of aviation maintenance documentation -- from the initial development stage through the final pre-publication stage. This toolbox provides techniques to help technical writers better understand their users and to evaluate their documentation more effectively and efficiently.

Rogers, Bonnie Lida, Chris Hamblin and Alex Chaparro. Usability News (2005). Articles>Documentation>Assessment>Usability


Everything from One Source

In the city of Konstanz on the shores of Lake Constance, Siemens AG manufactures equipment for sorting post. Also at the same location, a team of 16 experts create the corresponding technical documentation. But their work is not restricted to handbooks and CDs. Since ten years, this department, called 'Technical Media', has also been taking care of multimedia and training.

Robers, Ralf. tekom (2006). Articles>Information Design>Single Sourcing>Documentation


The Evolution of a Help System   (PDF)

An industry-wide design standard for help systems does not exist. To develop a flexible and usable help system for our workstation-based product, we have evolved and changed our help system design. Over a five-year period our help system was influenced by several factors:

Caldanaro, Regina M. and Michelle Corbin Nichols. STC Proceedings (1995). Articles>Documentation>Online>Help


Evolution to Performance Support: From Help to EPSS to PCD   (PDF)

TimeCorp, a leading publisher of commercial labor management software, has been working to incorporate increased levels of user support within its software interface. In this case study we will present samples of the TimeCorp product support as it evolved over time, from the initial online help to the electronic performance support (EPSS) prototype to the performance-centered design (PCD) solution. The types of information provided in the support also evolved to match the mode of presentation. The documentation team led this evolution within the organization and their roles have changed as a result.

Battle, Lisa H. and Metta Johnson. STC Proceedings (2000). Presentations>Documentation


Evolving Concepts: Expanding Project Resources   (PDF)

It is generally true that as large technical training and documentation projects evolve they place new and greater demands on existing resources. Although the intensity of the demand varies, it can usually be attributed to changes in the software application, to the addition of new learner groups, to the compression of existing schedules, and to the need for new training and documentation solutions. As projects become more demanding, resource allocation challenges become more sophisticated. Managers who bring big projects in within budget and on time, do so became they are able to allocate resources in creative, efficient, and effective ways.

Johanningsmeier, Kathleen A. STC Proceedings (1994). Articles>Documentation>Planning



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