Technical writing is a very specific term. It doesn’t simply mean writing technical content, like most people outside the niche assume. It’s a more specific term, which refers to the technical communication in fields like computer software and hardware, aeronautics, chemistry, robotics, engineering, and other technical fields. In its simple explanation, it means “conveying complex information in a simple form.” It involves much more than content writing.
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We can illustrate technical writing with a single word: manuals.
Writing such content requires specific skills. Not everyone has them, but we can surely work on them, right? According to Emily Sanders, a technical writer for SuperiorPapers, there’s one thing that can make you better at this: “The right software tools. There are great tools that enhance and simplify the process of technical writing. Unfortunately, not all writers know how to choose and use the best available tools.”
We’ll try to make the choice easier on you. We’ll list the best software tools for technical writing, so you can start using the ones you need.
This is a great choice of a tool for planning and project management. You can use it to generate various formats of documentation from a single platform. It gives you the features you need for completing manuals, help files, eBooks, and documentations. It’s really easy to use.
The best thing about HelpNDoc is that it integrates a table of contents editing, WYSIWYG topic editing, and keyword editing features in a single tool.
No matter what kind of technical content you create and no matter how hard you’re trying to simplify the language, people will still have questions about it. That’s why you need to allow them to comment on the technical content you publish online.
Disqus is the best choice of an online commenting service. When you add it to a website or a community, the visitors can discuss the material, leave feedback, or ask questions and get assistance from the support team. When you create a Disqus account, you’ll get a HTML markup that’s ready to be inserted to the web pages. All you need to do is apply it, and you’ll get a commenting area under the content.
This is a free editor that’s originally being used on Wikipedia. However, everyone can use it for displaying technical content in the form of help pages, how-to’s, and sales and marketing information.
The tool is pretty simple to use, and it gives you tutorials on how to edit a page.
If you’re creating policy & procedure manuals, online help, software and API documentation, knowledge bases, and other types of technical content, MadCap Flare is a good tool to use. It enables you to create, manage, and publish the content from a single platform. You use the tool not only for online content (mobile and desktop), but for print format as well.
The tool can do everything your clients need. Plus, MadCap Flare has an effective support team, so you won’t have a problem to figure out how to use it.
When it comes to editing images, which are absolutely needed in technical content, Adobe Photoshop is the tool most technical writers swear by. It’s a powerful image editing tool, which you’ll need for creating web pages, user interface designs, video graphics, and editing pictures for print.
There are alternatives, such as GIMP and Paint.net, but none of them is as powerful as Photoshop. Still, if you don’t need all features of Adobe Photoshop and you find the tool challenging to master, you may try one of the simpler alternatives first.
If you’re creating technical content for a global enterprise, you might have issues with terminology management. These clients have multiple versions of the same product name published, and translations of each target language version. This means you’ll face different treatments in capitalization, hyphenation, spacing, plural forms, and more. TermWeb is a terminology management solution, which will eliminate that confusion.
It’s a web-based model that will connect dispersed teams to the database, and it will help them make the transcultural communication more uniform, adaptable, clear, and effective.
This one is great to use during the editing process. It will “read” and score your content through a unique linguistics analysis system. Then, it will guide you through specific steps that help you improve its clarity and readability. Its guidelines are aimed at improvement of style, grammar, tone, and terminology. It’s more than what you get from your usual spelling and grammar checker.
Your entire team of writers can use it. Acrolinx does have a slight learning curve, especially when it comes to understanding the analytics on content quality trends and team performance. However, you’ll get used to it in no time.
When you’re creating how-to manuals for software, showing is better than explaining. You may guide the user through the functionalities of the tool by recording your screen as you use it. CamStudio is the right tool for that.
It can record all screen activity on your computer, audio included. You’ll get industry-standard AVI video files, which you can integrate in your technical content.
The online audience doesn’t like seeing technical content in the form of an endless, boring document that makes it difficult for them to find exactly what they need. When you’re presenting technical content online, you have to move away from the lengthy, static web help pages. Whatfix will help you do that.
This tool enables you to create captivating guides, presented by balloons, as the creators of the tool call the real-time interactive walkthrough elements. You don’t need any coding skills to start using the tool, although it does come with a learning curve. For the users of your technical content, however, it will make things much simpler.
Technical content writing requires more than good writing skills. Fortunately, the right tools can make you better at what you do. If you’ve used any of the tools listed above, feel free to share your impressions. If you have other suggestions for tools that make a technical writer’s work more effective, we’d love to see your recommendations.