Tech writing is a well-recognized career in other geographies, particularly USA, though it is just starting in India. Most software products...

Tech writing is a well-recognized career in other geographies, particularly USA, though it is just starting in India. Most software products are feature-rich; it is important to document the features in a way the end users can appreciate, understand and in turn use features to their advantage. It is not sufficient to build a great software product; it is necessary to get the 'value of the software product' were less complex through appropriate documentation, on the early days when the software products were less complex, simple 'users manuals' (often in printed form) were sufficient. But in today's context, the documentation goes beyond simple paper based documentation -there must be online help, has- holding tutorials for the first-time learners, online manuals with index and categorization, frequently asked questions to thrash out common errors and problems, on frequently asked questions to address the needs of expert users and specialized users, discussion forums, online expert support using voice, instant messenger (IM) and other forms of communication often involving multiple scripts and multiple languages on a 24x7 basis. Sometime tech writing would graduate to full blown online courses (for complex pieces of software like SAP R/3), instructor-led courses, workshops, books, CD-ROM, DVD and conferences where expert users share their intimate knowledge.
There ate specialized tools that have grown over the years, online help has graduated from just popping out a few characters when F1 key is pressed, to a sophisticated adaptive help that users 'Help compiler' for consistent performance. Many 'wizards' use Al techniques to 'predict' the context and provide contextual help. Presentation tools like 'Macromedia Flash' (now part of Adobe) and the very recently launched 'Flex' from Adobe that exploits the 'Rich internet Application' (RIA) environment are specifically addressing the needs of Tech writing community. At the higher end, there are challenging options like 'demos' that cab account that the highly publicized demos given to audiences involving tens of thousands of professionals during CeBit or Comdex can challenge even people like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs!
What is the core competence of tech writers?
First and foremost it is writing! One needs an outstanding ability to write; this ability improves over the years. Second it is a flair for technical stuff, Writing fiction or poetry needs inspiration from within; tech writing expects one to have curiosity, interest, passion and patience to appreciate, understand and dive deep into the technical details of the software products, more so from a user perspective. Manu developers would know very well many specific features (after all they built it ) but will have no clue as to what the feature will do tl a specific user or a user group. Just as car designers are not always great driving instructors, many software developers can be poor tech writers.
Tech writing is supported by many tools



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