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Planning a User Guide - Part 4/5 - Get Your Toolbox Together

Photo by  Fleur Treurniet  on  Unsplash In the previous post , I had discussed how to organize the team for creating your software's user manual. With the team ready, the next step is to select the tools. Working with the right technical writing tools is as important in technical writing as it is in building software. The right tools will help you be more organized, productive, and accurate in your work.  In software, we use an IDEs, testing tools, and version control tools to manage our work. In technical writing, at a bare minimum, we use a content authoring tool, an automated grammar checker, and visual tools to assist us in our work.  I'll discuss various tools that are available in the market, link to comparisons, and share my opinion to help you make the right choice. Help Authoring Tools A Help Authoring Tool (HAT) offers several features that go beyond simple word processing software for writing technical documents. HATs support publishing the cont
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Planning a User Guide - Part 3/5 - Co-ordinate the Team

Photo by  Helloquence  on  Unsplash This is the third post in a series of five posts on how to plan a user guide. In the first post , I wrote about how to conduct an audience analysis and the second post discussed how to define the overall scope of the manual. Once the overall scope of the user guide is defined, the next step is to coordinate the team that will work on creating the manual. A typical team will consist of the following roles. Many of these roles will be fulfilled by freelancers since they are one-off or intermittent work engagements. At the end of the article, I have provided a list of websites where you can find good freelancers. Creative Artist You'll need to work with a creative artist to design the cover page and any other images for the user guide. Most small to mid-sized companies don't have a dedicated creative artist on their rolls. But that's not a problem. There are several freelancing websites where you can work with great creative ar

Planning a User Guide - Part 2/5 - Determining the Overall Scope

Photo by  NordWood Themes  on  Unsplash In the previous post , I described how to do an audience analysis for a user guide. Understanding the audience will help you make design decisions that will serve your users in a better way. Once you have understood what the audience needs, the next step -- and the topic of this post -- is to plan the overall scope of the manual. I have outlined below, a list of sections that most manuals consist of. It's a comprehensive list and it's quite possible that your manual won't need all these sections. This post will also help you decide which sections you need. Cover Page The Cover Page contains the following details: The title of the user guide. A company logo. The version number of the product.  Optionally, the Cover Page can also mention the publish date and a one-line copyright notice. Sometimes, these details are mentioned on the page immediately following the cover page. Legal Notices The

Planning a User Guide - Part 1/5 - Audience Analysis

Creating a User Guide is in many ways similar to building software. Just like software, creating a successful manual also needs prior planning.  Planning a User Guide is a large topic so I’ll write it as a series of eight posts - one for each planning task. Here’s the first post on audience analysis. Audience Analysis A User Guide explains how to install and use the product. An effective User Guide does it in a way that is easy and clear for its readers. It considers the goals and requirements of the users. Therefore, the first planning task is to understand the target audience. The best way to understand your users is to interview them. The interview is done to identify usage patterns and a set of attributes that will help you communicate more effectively with your target audience. You can begin by identifying a few (let’s say five) users and interview them to understand their requirements. If you already have a few pilot or actual customers then it's bes

Five Reasons Why Your Product Needs an Awesome User Guide

Photo Credit: Peter Merholz ( Creative Commons 2.0 SA License ) A user guide is essentially a book-length document containing instructions for installing, using or troubleshooting a hardware or software product. A user guide can be very brief - for example, only 10 or 20 pages or it can be a full-length book of 200 pages or more. -- prismnet.com As engineers, we give a lot of importance to product design, architecture, code quality, and UX. However, when it comes to the user manual, we often only manage to pay lip service. This is not good. A usable manual is as important as usable software because it is the first line of help for the user and the first line of customer service for the organization. Any organization that prides itself on great customer service must have an awesome user manual for the product. In the spirit of listicles - here are at least five reasons why you should have an awesome user manual! Enhance User Satisfaction In my fourteen years as a

Fuctional Programming Principles in Scala - Getting Started

Sometime back I registered for the Functional Programming Principles in Scala , on Coursera. I have been meaning to learn Scala from a while, but have been putting it on the back burner because of other commitments. But  when I saw this course being offered by Martin Odersky, on Coursera , I just had to enroll in it. This course is a 7 week course. I will blog my learning experience and notes here for the next seven weeks (well actually six, since the course started on Sept 18th). The first step was to install the required tools: JDK - Since this is my work machine, I already have a couple of JDK's installed SBT - SBT is the Scala Build Tool. Even though I have not looked into it in detail, it seems like a replacement for Maven. I am sure we will use it for several things, however upto now I only know about two uses for it - to submit assignments (which must be a feature added by the course team), and to start the Scala console. Installed sbt from here , and added the path

Creating an Eclipse web project using Maven and Struts 1.x

I am doing some Struts work after a long time. Interestingly it is for a Test Driven Development training. A client wants me to do a hands on session, using Struts 1.x, and EJB's. They also want to do the hands on sessions with a small but production project. It seems their developers are tired of Calculator and Shape projects :-) Well I can't really blame them. I have been planning to create some micro applications around diycomputerscience.com . I hope to create each application using a different technology, so I can have several reference points for teaching. For this session I am going to make a web application which will store and display my slides. I am sure you are thinking ... but why not just use SlideShare ? Well besides the fact that I think this makes a great application that is small, but also production quality. Ideal for using to teach. But there are other reasons as well. It is very hard to embed code snippets on Slideshare. Slideshare also does not support