List of technical documentation resources. Key words: reference, communication, usability, online help, organizations, illustration, web development, user interface, Ron Kurtus, School for Champions. Copyright © Restrictions
Technical Documentation Resources
by Ron Kurtus (revised 30 June 2004)
The following material consists of useful resources for technical writers.
Designing Print Documentation: FrameMaker Tutorials - Good tutorial and FrameMaker resources for an online class
ProSpring - Technical Writer staffing
FreelanceWriting.Com - Information about freelance writing
Technical writing sites
The following sites provide information about writing.
About Technical Writing - Good resource of articles and links from About.com
Writer's Write on Technical Writing - Reference site with links and tips
Hokum Writing - Information on technical writing and a partial listing of writers in the Sacramento, California area
"Ten Reasons Why Designers are Better at Marketing Themselves than Writers" by Carollyne Hutter - Washington Independent Writers
Software Documentation and Learning Solutions from WilliamRice - Includes some good how-to information on technical writing
User Interface Engineering - Information on Web user interface
Usable Information Technology Site - Information on Web usability
The following Web sites can provide you with specific information on developing online help.
JavaHelp - Links to JavaHelp support tools
WinWriters - Resource for online writers
Society for Technical Communications - Information for writers and technical communicators
Software Contractor's Guild - Information for those involved in software development and writing for developers
HTML Writers Guild - Information for those involved in Web development
American Society of Indexers - Organization for writers specializing in indexing issues
Style and Policy Manual for Theses and Dissertations - Format for writing a graduate-level theses or dissertation from the University of Washington
Bartlett's Familiar Quotations - Online version of Bartlett's classic book
The Elements of Style - Online version of Strunk's classic book, with good look-up to various rules of grammar and punctuation
Guide to Grammar and Style - Essay on grammar from Rutgers University
On-line English Grammar - Information concerning grammar and English usage
Research and Documentation Online - Guide to doing online research, as well as links to subject matters
Specialized tools are often used in technical communication. The following lists commonly required tools and links to their company sites, where you can get an overview of the product features:
Microsoft Word - Industry standard for word processing; used in shorter manuals
Adobe FrameMaker - Industry standard for writing long manuals
Adobe PageMaker - A more popular desk-top publisher than FrameMaker; used by many companies
Microsoft Publisher - Popular desk-top publishing tool; more suitable for newsletters
Adobe Illustrator - Industry standard vector graphics creation software for print and the Web
Corel Draw - High-end drawing package still used by some companies
Adobe Photoshop - Top image editing application
Jasc Paintshop Pro - Used as a low-cost alternative to Adobe Photoshop or Corel Draw by many companies
eHelp RoboHelp - Industry standard for creating online help
ComponentOne Doc-to-Help - Alternative to RoboHelp
Microsoft FrontPage - Popular web page development tool
Macromedia Dreamweaver - Industry standard for web page development
Macromedia Flash - Top web animation tool
I love books and use many as resources. The following list contains a variety of books for the technical writer. These books are linked to Amazon.com, if you are interested in online purchasing.
General technical writing
Elements of Technical Writingby Robert Bly and Gary Blake, Pearson Higher Education, 2000 ($9.95) - Concise treatment in style, rules and principles of technical communication. Short, easy-to-use book outlines the major principles of technical writing.
Writing Software Documentation: A Task-Oriented Approach by Thomas Barker, Allyn & Bacon, 1997 ($48.00) - How to create documents that help software users learn program features with instructions that covers the documentation development process.
Standards for Online Communicationby Joann Hackos and Dawn Stevens, John Wiley & Sons, 1997 ($43.99) - Guidelines for how to place information online within a company. Provides both a design and development process.
The Art of Human Computer Interface Design by Brenda Laurel, Addison-Wesley Publishers, 1990 ($31.96) - A range of opinions and experiences on interface design. May be somewhat dated.
Designing the User Interface by Ben Shneiderman, Addison-Wesley Publishers, 1997 ($60.00) - Practical techniques and guidelines for interface design. Highly rated, but an academic approach to usability.
Designing and Writing On-Line Documentation by William Horton, Wiley & Sons, 1994 ($29.95) - I have this very good book. Gives an overview of most online topics and is a comprehensive resource.
RoboHelp 7 for Dummies by Jim Meade, IDG Books, 1999 ($19.99) - Beginner's book RoboHelp with examples on enclosed CD-ROM.
RoboHELP 2000 Bible by John Hedtke and Elizabeth Knottingham, Hungry Minds, Inc., 2000 ($35.99) - Extensive resource on using RoboHelp 2000, including strategies for chunking information and presenting it effectively, showing how the RoboHELP environment fits with the larger goal of communicating facts.
The Official Microsoft HTML Help Authoring Kit by Steve Wexler, Microsoft Press, 1998 ($31.99) - Basic approach to Microsoft's HTML Help, explaining how to use and migrate to that form of Help.
Learning Adobe FrameMaker Macmillan Computer Pub. 1996 ($48.00) - Comprehensive tutorial, but lacks advanced material.
Classroom in a Book - Adobe FrameMaker 5.5 Adobe Press 1997 ($36.00) - Good introduction to FrameMaker; well-done and well-organized.
Adobe FrameMaker 6.0 Classroom in a Bookby Adobe Creative Team, Adobe Press, 2000 ($45.00) - A book/CD-ROM package of 17 lessons covering basics of Adobe FrameMaker.
Adobe FrameMaker 5.5 Training CD by Diane Presler, Virtual Training Company, 1998, ($99.95) - 12 hours of training on a CD to show the robust features of FrameMaker 5.5.
FrameMaker 5.5.6 For Dummiesby Sarah O'Keefe and John Warnock, Hungry Minds, Inc, 1999 ($19.99) - Simple explanation of basics of FrameMaker. A good starting point.
Illustrating Computer Documentation by William Horton, Wiley & Sons, 1991 ($39.95) - Conceptual guide on using visual communication for illustrating technical information.
The Web Page Design Cookbook by William Horton, Lee Taylor, Arthur Igiiacio and Nancy Hoft, Wiley & Sons, 1995 ($34.95) - I have this book which is a good overview of web design and includes a CD-ROM with templates. Although it is someone outdated, it still has value to newcomers.
Designing Web-Based Trainingby William Horton, John Wiley & Sons, 2000 ($39.99) - Guide shows designing, setting-up, and managing an WBT site.
The Art of Indexing by Larry Bonura, John Wiley & Sons, 1994 ($31.99) - Short lessons on each step of the indexing process, including how to estimate indexing time and indexing for on-line documents.
How to Export Information about High Technology by Nancy Hoft, Wiley & Sons, 1995 ($29.95) - Principles and practices for effective international technical communication.
Managing Your Documentation Projects by JoAnn T. Hackos, Wiley & Sons, 1995 ($39.99) - Excellent project management techniques for large documentation projects. Exhaustive management resource.
The Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications, Microsoft Press, 1998 ($29.95) - Essential resource as a style guide.
Use these resources to help you improve your skills in technical communication.
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Technical Documentation Resources