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The Best Software for Technical Writers

February 5, 2015 Digital Media Production, General 0 Comments

Determining the best software for technical writers often depends on the type and scope of the project at hand. From design software to content development for complex documentation, technical writers regularly use multiple software packages — sometimes in tandem — to do what they do best.

What Is Technical Writing?

Technical writing is a subset of general writing that includes complex formatting, technical communication and, sometimes, graphic design. Technical writers regularly develop documents like user manuals, online help and FAQs, white papers, case studies, press releases, business proposals, operating procedures and product descriptions. Many of these documents also require a certain amount of design within their formatting, so students of technical writing usually learn a bit about graphic design, and graphic designers often learn about technical writing.

Some of the best software for technical writers helps them develop content, design a specific style and format for a document and help communicate information to the reader with both words and infographics:

The Best Software for Technical WritersMicrosoft Office: One of the most popular content creation suites used by technical writers, programs in the Office suite help technical writers create, edit, format and align documents in a .doc or .docx file. Sometimes content and formatting built in an Office program, such as Microsoft Word, are cut or copied and built into other software packages.

Adobe FrameMaker: This document processor was designed for writing and editing very large and complex documentation. Revered among technical writers, this program is essentially a word processor on steroids, with enhanced capability to incorporate graphics and images within text. Perfect for writing complex documents, FrameMaker remains some of the best software for technical writers on the market today.

Adobe InDesign: Similar to FrameMaker but used for less complex tasks, Adobe InDesign helps technical writers develop things like posters, fliers, magazines, brochures, newspaper layouts and book layouts. Functioning as a desktop publisher, InDesign works great for developing graphics and text together, with slightly better quality than Microsoft Word can provide.

RoboHelp/MadCap Flare: These software tools are often used by technical writers to develop help files or FAQs that use hyperlinks to jump between pages. These programs can develop multiple files that are connected with hyperlinks, which can then be placed on the Web or an intranet, or simply used as a personal glossary or index for any project.

Screen-Capture Software: Any screen-capturing software is good to know, and technical writers use an array of these every day to capture images, design specs, parts of a Web page or parts of a PC's graphic user interface (GUI) to help explain or refer to specific items within a document.

Students of writing or design interested in the field should learn as many of these programs as possible, and especially how to use them together for the many projects technical writers are called to do daily.

Photo credit: Flickr

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