Technical writers have quite a difficult job, as they need to explain how things work using their writing. Not only that, but they also need to adapt their content to the level of their readers, because explaining something you know to someone who doesn’t know anything about it is not an easy thing to do. In other words, it needs to be written for a wide range of people who will use the product and who will approach it with same level of proficiency.
However, technical writers do not deem their job as too difficult, and the main reason for that is not because they are used to it. It is because there are many useful apps or software solutions that can aid authors during this process. They are referred to as help authoring tools and they are widely used for generating quality content among which are instruction manuals or technical articles.
How Authoring Tools Help
The basic idea behind a help authoring tool is that it will allow you to concentrate on the important aspects of writing help documentation, and to design it in a way that is easy to read, but still accurate.
The authoring tool itself needs to be easy to use, it needs to help you generate files in multiple formats and allow those files to be easily edited and customized. In other words, it can’t tell you what to do, but it can make other tiresome jobs that would take up too much time a lot simpler.
Of course, not all help authoring tools are designed the same way, and you should pick the one that is compatible with your line of work.
It is important that you can use all software features intuitively, otherwise it won’t help you do your job, if you need to figure out how the entire thing works. Here, we will show the exact benefits of using these tools and how they make technical writing jobs easier.
Analyzing Texts and Spotting the Errors
Instruction manuals or help manuals are quite complex documents, and writers need to cover a lot of topics in order to create adequate content. Authors need to use multimedia elements to exemplify their points better and quality hyperlinks in order to fully cover some topics without unnecessary digressions.
With the analyzer feature, which is quite common for help authoring tools, you can receive instant feedback on all sorts of things. You can discover writing errors, broken links, duplicated content, etc.
This is really going to speed up the entire proof reading concept and all of the issues can be fixed in a timely manner. Once your content is verified by the tool, you can publish it with certainty, and your readers will be able to understand it better.
As mentioned, designing instruction manuals means that your content needs to be optimized for the masses. However, this is not reflected solely on your writing style; it is also entails that you create different formats of your content. In other words, you need a Word document, a pdf, CHM file, etc.
This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but before these authoring tools, optimizing content for all of these formats was not as simple. Today, you only need to use your help authoring tools and allow it to adapt your content for all of these different formats. Basically, the tool allows you to entirely skip this phase, since it is going to be done simultaneously, with the creation of the original content.
Giving Content a Unique Vibe
Every instruction manual is written for a particular product, which means that it is written for a certain company, brand name, or persona business. Considering how establishing this brand identity is really important, it would be wise that the manuals you create also have a unique feel to them.
With the use of help authoring software, you can easily customize your writing and give it a truly unique look, so that it is not a generic manual you copied online and adapted for your product. You can add all sorts of features like icons and even your logo; this way, the content you create will truly be yours.
Visual Aids Manipulation
As mentioned, every technical writing job includes adding various multimedia visual aids, like videos and images, or infographics. These are quite crucial for quality instructions since they allow readers to have better visualization of what they should do. With a help authoring tool, the inclusion of these elements is seamless and, in many instances, it will be a simple matter of dragging and dropping.
Moreover, by changing the file you use in the library, you can automatically change all the same files you used in your content, so there is no need to make a separate change each time you need to edit these elements.
As you can see, these features are clearly impacting technical writing in a positive way. If your agency does a lot of technical writing and you are not using help authoring tools, you should seriously think about acquiring them. Not only will they improve the quality of your technical writing results, but they will also allow your staff to be more efficient and to create more unique content to represent you better.