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Four Things Every Technical Writer Should Have

I recently attended a professional conference where I learned four categories of programs every technical writer needs.  Those categories are

1.  Help Authoring Tool

2.  Page Layout Tool

3.  Graphics Tool

4.  Video Tool

There are a few applications for each category, but I’m going to focus more on the programs made by Adobe.  Please understand–I’m not being fake, and I’m not trying to advertise; it really is my personal preference.  My feeling is that Adobe creates powerful tools well suited to do their work.

Madcap Flare is a good authoring tool.  It isn’t as expensive as other programs, but it’s also not the most powerful.  If what you want is power, I recommend you buy Author It.  It’s very powerful; it’s just also very expensive.

Adobe InDesign is a great page layout tool.  I’ve used it, myself, and have been delighted by how user-friendly it is.  Don’t get the wrong idea–it’s still challenging, but it’s nothing you couldn’t figure out on your own.  Another advantage of using InDesign is that it can connect with other Adobe programs if you have the Adobe Creative Suite.

You should try Adobe Illustrator for your graphics tool.  It’s very powerful, and also very similar to Adobe InDesign.  In that respect, it can prove very convenient.

Adobe Captivate, Camtasia Studio, and Flash are all good video tools.  The important thing is to have a tool you can feel confident using and to use it well.

Which programs you use isn’t the major issue.  I do think it’s easier to use programs that behave similarly, though, so you might like to browse through your options and see which combination of tools is the most fitting.  At the end of the day, my recommendations aren’t your law.

Yours,

John R Larsen

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Categories: Technology
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