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Help Authoring Tools Poll Update 

9th December 2011 Posted in Blog, Documentation, Software Tools 2 Comments
Help Authoring Tool Poll Results on 12/9/2011

Poll Results as of 12/9/2011

The Help Authoring Tools poll, featured in the left column of our blog, has been running for 3 weeks now. And though there have only been 94 voters so far, I thought it was a good time to look at the results and see if any trends can be spotted.

Madcap Flare Makes a Big Impression

Of the readers who have participated in the poll so far, just about 2/3rds (66%) are using MadCap Flare and another quarter or so (25%) are using RoboHelp, making knowledge of those two tools the apparent standard for help development – at least within the small sample of readers who’ve participated to date. Even with a small sample size, those numbers are impressive, especially for Flare, the relatively new kid on the block.

Dinosaurs to the Back of the Bus

FrameMaker and MS Word are tied with a usage rate of 10% each. That seems like a paltry number for those two tools, don’t you think? My understanding is that Framemaker remains the default tool for Department of Defense (DOD) projects, and traditionally has been more localization friendly.

Are Wikis the Future of Technical Communications?

Do you think wikis and wiki-enabling tools like Confluence are the wave of the future? Using a wiki for documentation seems like a good idea – at least on the surface. Wikis have the potential to allow users to help each other by filling in gaps in the documentation and providing shortcuts that the technical writer may not have considered. By tracking user updates to a wiki, you can get some valuable information on both the product/procedure and its documentation for future improvements. However, migrating content from a legacy system to a wiki would seem like a daunting project at best.

Help Wanted

Browsing through WAI’s current list of job openings for technical writers, I noticed three jobs specifically mentioned strong knowledge of MS Word and one mentioned Frame. None of the other postings mention any of the tools that are included in the poll. Yes, technical writers use a variety of tools for various tasks, including Visio and AutoCAD software, and those are mentioned occasionally.

I would still love to hear from those of you who already participated in the poll (and those of you who haven’t done so yet). I strongly suspect many of you use multiple tools – that’s why the poll was configured to allow you to vote for more than one. But I’m also interested in the difference between independent contractors, who may have to use a variety of tools throughout the course of a year for different clients/projects, and technical writers who are employed as full-time staff. Finally, we’d like to know the types of projects/deliverables for which you’re using the specific tools that received your vote. Please leave a comment (and get your friends to vote so we get a larger sample size) and let’s get a discussion going!

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2 Comments

  1. By Esther Klayon 30th, December 2011 at 3:50 am

    Hello!
    I am a full time staff technical writer. I use MS Word for Release Notes and User Guides. I use RoboHelp9 for online help. I love Snagit for screen captures. I have used Framemaker in the past.

    Several non-writers in our group like to use Excel for their writing projects!

  2. By editoron 30th, December 2011 at 3:14 pm

    Esther:
    Thanks for the insight!

    I can’t imaging having to use Excel for writing projects – wow!

    Agree Snagit rocks – not only for screen captures, but I find it amazingly capable for resizing images quickly. It has become my go-to photo editor.

    Happy New Year!

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