Documentation

Why use external resources?

The term "Documentation" is usually applied to a written description of what an item, function or service is meant to do, and how it is supposed to be used. "Open other end" at the bottom of Swedish Coke bottles is documentation; the workshop manual for your new Imperial Blue Ford Fiesta ST is documentation, just as the User's Manual for your new Toshiba Satellite Pro is documentation. I/we will translate a wide range of topics, but when it comes to writing - authoring, if you insist - documentation, I am limiting myself to a narrow field: The creation of User Manuals for Windows-based application software within certain specific fields.

bullet Avoid the cost of full-time personnel when the time required for document purposes is less than a man-year per annum
bullet Avoid staff expansion to cater to short periods of high activity
bullet Tie documentation to projects, for monitoring progress and cost
bullet The end result of the competence is retained in the business, in the shape of the finished documentation

Procedure

The documentation writer will typically join the team of developers, to extract their knowledge of the product in order to condense it and convey the knowledge to the users. Prerequisites are general knowledge of Windows, a clear and efficient writing style, solid knowledge of the tools employed, and about various target platforms or media. The most important knowledge remains the product knowledge that resides with your developers, and sometimes with your customers. This is the knowledge that the technical writer needs to attain, and commit to paper. Which is really a figure of speech; paper may yet become the only medium not used for certain types of documentation.

m_officeMicrosoft Word
Intimate knowledge of the tools is important. If you need a different tool than MS-Word for your documentation, you also need a different writer. 

WinHelp, HTML-hjelp, or...

Both, and more. What you will need from your technical writer is knowledge of different target platforms, and what are the features, benefits and problems with each one. 

robohelpRoboHelp? Doc-to-Help?
These are two leading tools for the development of help systems based on user guides in the shape of Word documents. Each has its strong points and weak points; tell me your priorities, and I'll help you select. I hold full licences for either; if you wish to maintain the finished help system yourself, you will need your own licence for the product in question (in addition to Word, of course).

Referanser

siemensSiemens Business Services AS
Formerly Siemens Nixdorf Information Systems, earlier still Nixdorf Computer; was home to the software development group DocuLive, which made client/server software for document management, case management and workflow management with users in private industry as well as in local and central government. User guides and help systems were authored by yours truly, partly as external resource, partly as employee, through the end of 1997.

telenorTelenor Mobil
Following up on the immense success with MobilKontor (Mobile Office), Telenor Mobil chose to develop its own MobilKontor 2. The development task was assigned to A/S EDB, who were quietly advised to select the same writer that was responsible for the localisation of MobilKontor 1. All told, Telenor sold a five-figure number of these software packages for those early adopters among us who needed constant email access without benefit of cables.