Technical Tools Needed

Although technical writers are not expected to be experts in all technical tools, they must be familiar with these industry standards:

Word Processing software is the backbone of technical writing for creating text. The most popular word processing tool is Microsoft Word. A technical writer must be familiar with Word and should be an advanced to expert user. The technical writer who cannot afford to buy Word should use Open Office, which converts Word files easily.

Desktop Publishing (DTP) programs format documents for the printer. A very common program is Adobe FrameMaker, which is useful for large documents with extensive formatting. FrameMaker can host multiple users and is good for collaboration.

Image Capturing and Editing tools allow the designer to insert images into the document, such as photographs, tables, graphs, and line drawings. Snagit and CamStudio are screen capture software programs. Visio is a program that creates flow charts, org charts, and other visuals. Captured images usually require editing and tweaking. The most popular editing tools are Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and Corel Paint Shop Pro.

Online Help tools facilitate the development of pop-up dialog boxes and searchable, context-sensitive Help files. Context-sensitive Help files save users the trouble of searching through lengthy manuals for answers to questions. The standard tool is RoboHelp, used to create online Help for any application. Other common tools are Doc-To-Help and Author-it. Technical writers must be familiar with at least one online Help tool.

Web Tools include Microsoft FrontPage and Adobe Dreamweaver, which allow the writer to use WYSIWYG (what-you-see- is-what-you-get, pronounced "wiziwig") to design web pages without HTML. A technical writer should have knowledge of HTML and other codes to edit Web pages.

Programming Languages include Java, C++, Visual Basic, .NET, and many others. Technical writers should be familiar with programming languages to help them when writing about program specifications.

Technical Writing - Main