A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.


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Adding Screenshots in Help Topics

Here are a few tips for adding screenshots to your help topics.

HelpScribe (2009). Articles>Documentation>Help>Screen Captures


The Art of Technical Writing

To a non-practitioner, the art of technical writing is a nebulous pursuit to be avoided at all costs. The territory is ripe with jargon and Rube Goldberg devices that are not to be trusted. Besides, who in their right mind would want to be a "Technical Writer" (whatever that is)? But to the artisan, technology and language are the subject and medium in which we create our masterworks.

HelpScribe (2008). Articles>Writing>Technical Writing


Content Reuse the Easy Way

For years you've been hearing about how structured authoring and XML-based workflows can help technical authors reuse content more efficiently. By converting all of your topics to an XML standard, investing in a CMS, and building custom DTDs and XSLT translations, you can avoid having to maintain duplicate content. The downside? Months of time invested in research, evaluation, and conversion only to be followed by a steep learning curve as your team adjusts to a new workflow.

Haiss, Craig. HelpScribe (2010). Articles>Content Management>Information Design>XML


Current Trends in Technical Communications

Many technical writers are developing usability skills and leveraging them to help improve the product interface. Help is being delivered within the interface itself. Drop-down lists of topics related to an interface component, hint text below a GUI field, and other such embedded user assistance models allow users to get help without leaving the application interface.

Haiss, Craig. HelpScribe (2008). Articles>Documentation>TC


Definition of Technical Writing: What Is It?

Technical writing is the act of documenting how to use products of all types. This definition of technical writing is broad because the field itself is vast. Those who work in the field are employed in a huge array of industries, including medical, automitive, software, training and consulting, and more.

HelpScribe (2009). Articles>Writing>Technical Writing


Editing Guidelines for Software Documentation

Software documentation can be difficult to review, so it helps to have some editing guidelines to keep you focused. Let's face it; software documentation isn't exactly exciting reading material. But you should be able to complete the job in a productive manner if you keep your coffee cup full and follow the editing guidelines below.

HelpScribe (2008). Articles>Documentation>Editing>Software


Eight Tips for Writing Informative Overview Topics

Overview topics play an important role in creating a positive user assistance experience. Unlike procedures, which deliver critical information on how to solve a problem quickly, overview topics fill in the conceptual details and background "story." Here are some tips for writing thorough and informative overviews.

HelpScribe (2008). Articles>Documentation>Online>Help


Eleven Tips for Writing Incredibly Useful Procedures

Procedures are the meat and potatoes of technical writing. They help users get the job done. Follow these tips for writing clear and useful procedures that your users will appreciate.

HelpScribe (2008). Articles>Documentation>Policies and Procedures>Technical Writing


Five Ways to Supercharge Your Technical Writing Career

Technical writing is known for high salaries, plenty of technical challenges, and the need to constantly adapt. Here are five ways to rise through the ranks and find success in the industry.

Haiss, Craig. HelpScribe (2010). Careers>Writing>Technical Writing>Advice


Freelance Technical Writing: Getting Started

Are you a writer with an interest in technology? Do you want more freedom and greater control of your income? If so, perhaps freelance technical writing is for you. By using your skills to build your own client base, you can reap the following advantages.

Haiss, Craig. HelpScribe (2010). Careers>Freelance>Technical Writing


The Future of Tech Comm: Machines that Teach You How to Use Them

One of the greatest problems manufacturers face is teaching consumers how to use their products. As I mentioned in a previous post, 95 percent of devices returned to stores actually work. That's a serious pain point and expense for manufacturers. Smart phones, tablets, and other computer-like devices are naturally moving in the direction of simple, digital instructions for setup.

HelpScribe (2014). Articles>User Centered Design>Technical Writing


HelpScribe Technical Writing

HelpScribe Technical Communication offers tips on writing technical manuals, help authoring, software documentation, and managing a TC career.

HelpScribe (2008). Resources>TC>Technical Writing>Blogs


HelpScribe: Great Examples of Technical Writing

Not all manuals are created equal. Some are infused with the character and skill of their creator, and rise above the mere paperweights that line the shelves of used bookstores of small-town USA. Some examples of technical writing are so effective, even enjoyable, that they earn a place in the memory of readers. Here are a few technical writing examples that have earned my admiration.

HelpScribe (2008). Articles>Writing>Technical Writing>Case Studies


HelpScribe: Technical Communicators Cannot be Provoked

Have you ever received a review comment that totally ticked you off? Perhaps a sarcastic comment with no practical suggestion for improving the content? Maybe even one that questioned your abilities as a writer and the value of your contribution to the product? The dangerous thing about being a writer is that you're well equipped for unleashing scathing replies. If your buttons have been pushed, chances are your retaliation will bite deep and leave no room for misinterpretation. After all, you sling words for a living, right? Like the hands of Kwai Chang Caine, your words are deadly weapons. Hold that thought.

HelpScribe (2009). Articles>Collaboration>Advice


How Color Defines Purpose in User Assistance Content

Of all the visual cues in your help interface, color is one of the strongest. Users will recognize and react to the color of each element in your help window before reading a single word of text. Color allows users to determine the purpose of each element on the computer screen. When designing the visual aspect of your help content (via CSS and so on), as well as the help interface itself, be sure to use the same color for objects that share a purpose.

Haiss, Craig. HelpScribe (2009). Articles>Documentation>Technical Writing>Color


How Help Search Should Work

Every help authoring tool seems to have a different approach to presenting search results. Offerings range from ranked results to alphabetical lists, with additional features thrown in such as the inclusion of chunks of topic text with highlighted search keywords. Each method of presenting search results offers different benefits to users. Since help tools offer mixed approaches, I feel perfectly comfortable throwing my own opinions into the mix.

Haiss, Craig. HelpScribe (2009). Articles>Documentation>Search>Help


How to Become a Technical Writer

Technical writing is sort of a jack-of-all-trades profession. It requires diverse skills, so a lot of people stumble into technical writing by chance. I've personally met technical writers who used to be lawyers, educators, and published fiction writers, and I've heard stories of many other professionals drifting into the field. Their past careers required writing, teaching, or technical abilities, and these skills helped them segue into a technical writing job.

HelpScribe (2009). Careers>Writing>Technical Writing


How to Convince Others of the Importance of Documentation

If you've been a technical writer for long, chances are you've had to convince someone of the importance of documentation. It just comes with the territory. People often don't see the value of writing technical manuals. So how do you convince them?

HelpScribe (2008). Articles>Documentation>Collaboration


How To Create an Effective Screencast: 18 Tips

Screencasts are quickly becoming an essential component of software documentation. They combine visual and auditory learning with text to provide a balanced learning experience. Here are some tips on how to create a screencast that engages viewers and provides maximum results for your efforts.

HelpScribe (2010). Articles>Multimedia>Screen Captures>Screencasting


How to Create Engagement and Add Integration

Now technical writers can focus on how to most effectively integrate screencasts into their documentation in an engaging manner. Video content seems to be very effective for grabbing and holding the attention of viewers, and you can leverage this to help guide them through the tedious details of your user documentation. Here are some tips for using screencasts more effectively.

HelpScribe (2010). Articles>Multimedia>Video>Screencasting


How to Write a Disaster Recovery Plan

Tragic events are a part of life. While we can't predict them, we can prepare for them. Here are some tips on how to write a disaster recovery plan that will keep your organization operating during and after such events.

HelpScribe (2008). Articles>Business Communication>Crisis Communication>Policies and Procedures


How to Write Interesting Headings for Documentation

Perhaps our headings should focus a bit more on user benefits? For example, "Overview of batch printing - Save time and improve document organization" is a bit more engaging, especially if your customer is struggling with those issues.

HelpScribe (2010). Articles>Documentation>Information Design>Technical Writing


The Importance of Software Documentation    (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The look and feel of a help system can differ greatly from one product to the next, as can the writing. So how can the technical writing community emphasize the importance of software documentation standards and create a more unified help experience that users can adapt to?

Helpscribe (2000). Books>Documentation>Standards>Software


Nine Tips for Writing Better FAQs

Frequently asked questions, or FAQs, are an important part of your product documentation. Writing well-targeted and thorough FAQs allow users to quickly find the answers they need so they can be more productive when using your product. Here are some tips for writing FAQs that will get your users on track quickly and help reduce Customer Support calls.

HelpScribe (2008). Articles>Documentation>Writing>FAQ


Off Site Reviews: Six Ways to Exchange Edits

Coordinating a document review can be a tedious process. However, the task is even more difficult when reviewers work in another location and can't quickly exchange comments via paper. Fortunately, technology is presenting writers with new options for handling off-site reviews.

HelpScribe (2009). Articles>Collaboration>Editing>Online



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