Cherryleaf Technical Authors' Blog
A blog site from Cherryleaf. We write that missing information your users really need.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Will Microsoft's Vista delay benefit RoboHelp?
Microsoft has put back the launch of its next operating system, Microsoft Vista. Corporate customers are promised it in November 2006, with the retail version due in January 2007.
This is unlikely to have earth shattering consequences for technical writers, but it is likely to affect some of the Help authoring tool vendors. For Adobe, in particular, who are busy recruiting programmers to restart development of RoboHelp, it gives them an additional six months breathing space to come up with a version that supports Vista.
A map of technology start-ups in Britain
Electronics Weekly has published a map of technology start-ups in Britain. They define a start-up as one that is less than 5 years old and hasn't been bought, floated or been wound up.
There are 128 firms featured on the map, up from 110 in 2003 and 32 in 1999. The clusters are Cambridge, Bristol, Southampton and Edinburgh.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Tech Writing 2.0 - The impact of Web 2.0 on technical illustration
Last week we said:
"At the moment, the biggest problem is how to tag particular areas of a diagram (to be called "segmented tagging" or "hotspot tagging" perhaps?), but that's unlikely to be a showstopper."
And this week, a Web site went into service that solves this problem!
Does anyone else know what that Web site is ?
A clue - It's a four letter word beginning with R.
Friday, March 17, 2006
Our Happy Place
"I got a lot out of the day. I think the standard course is ideally suited to people who are starting out or at the early phases of implementing new online help projects. While the work that our department does is a little beyond this stage, I still found the course, which was tailored to suit our needs, of great value. I had stressed that I wanted to get "back to basics", and I found that even areas that weren't new to me were valuable, as it allowed me confirm what we are doing right, and what areas we need to improve...
...In addition, Justin provided well thought out feedback, insights, and critique on issues specific to our department and company in the tailored afternoon session."
Feedback on Cherryleaf's Justin Darley from someone in the UK's largest software company.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Tech Writing 2.0 - The impact of Web 2.0 on technical illustration
What will be the impact of Web 2.0 on technical illustration?
The answer lies, perhaps, in "tagging", "mashups" and photo sharing.
Wikipedia's definitions may help you. Tags are "descriptors that individuals assign to objects, in the practice of collaborative categorization", and a mashup is "a website or web application that seamlessly combines content from more than one source into an integrated experience".
One possible mashup is between an image tagging site such as Flikr and your technical illustrations. This would enable your users to label diagrams and parts of diagrams using words (or language) of their choosing.
At the moment, the biggest problem is how to tag particular areas of a diagram (to be called "segmented tagging" or "hotspot tagging" perhaps?), but that's unlikely to be a showstopper.
Monday, March 13, 2006
Adobe to breathe life into RoboHelp?
There are signs that Adobe is planning to breathe life into RoboHelp. They are said to be planning to set up a new development team in India (the former developers were laid off by previous owners Macromedia). Karl Matthews is now Adobe's Product Manager for RoboHelp, and he is arranging a meeting at the upcoming WritersUA conference with interested parties to determine the future direction for the product.
The questions are:
Is this just talk to stop users migrating to new tools?
If they do plan to act, have they left it too late?
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Tech Writing 2.0 - Writely
We've been tracking Writely for a while, and it's interesting to see that it's now been snapped up by Google. It seems likely that Writely will form part of a hosted desktop productivity suite that Google will offer in the near future. The interest for the technical writing community lies more in its collaborative authoring, version control and document sharing capabilities.
Friday, March 10, 2006
Our Happy Place
Some nice feedback from one our recent Web editing projects:
"I'm very, very happy with the new site content. There are still a few rough edges (like the font sizes, the blog and some of the images/buttons/logos), but our web builder will tackle all that when he's back from a well-earned holiday next week.
And some good things have happened straight away: our Alexa ranking has started to climb -slowly; our competitors have started really piling in on our Google keyword.
Your work has generated a subtle change that is starting to have a big impact on the way we work with our site. I'll keep you posted - if this is the effect your work has on sites I think we'll be working together again soon."
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Tech Writing 2.0 - Collective Searching
More Web 2.0 developments that could affect technical documentation:
A new kind of search engine could make the act of Web searching more sociable.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
We made it to ITWeek
We were pointed to this article by James Woudhuysen in ITWeek:
"From consultants Cherryleaf, Ellis Pratt also brings wisdom - indeed, he has lessons on metrics that go beyond their use in technical publishing . First, he rightly issues what he calls ‘18 minutes of health and safety warnings’ on how to measure - and mainly how not to measure - productivity.
The point, he says, is that you don’t want to be having conversations with management about page count, cost per word, or number of pages put out per writer. That will put you on a treadmill of ever-more-painful cost cutting. Better to frame your metrics in terms of your company’s strategic objectives."
Tech writing 2.0 - microformats
What will microformats mean for your technical documentation?
We live in a world where unstructured content is easy to create, but very hard to search on. Unfortunately, creating structured content, which is easy to search on, is expensive.
The latest solution to this problem is microformats. These provide simple data "chunks", embedded in a Web Page, that are both easy to use and easy to search.
The microformats principles are:
Solve a specific problem
Start as simple as possible
Design for humans first, machines second
Reuse building blocks from widely adopted standards
Modularity / embeddability
Enable and encourage decentralized development, content, services
So people involved technical writing may need to be aware of microformats such as rel-license, rel-tag and XOXO in the near future.
MadCap Flare now released
MadCap Software has now released the shrink-wrap version of Flare.
Flare is a new help authoring tool, created by the original developers of RoboHelp, that will appeal to users of RoboHelp. It includes support for new Vista Help format from Microsoft.
Cherryleaf will be offering Flare training courses in the UK and Europe.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Get the unique Cherryleaf toolbar
Cherryleaf has been developing an Web Toolbar for technical communicators.
Please download and install the toolbar here.
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Works in Firefox (for Macs too) and Internet Explorer on PCs
Both versions can be uninstalled
We welcome suggestions and feedback. If you spot any bugs then do let us know.
We hope you find it useful.
Monday, March 06, 2006
Complexity causes 50% of product returns
Elke den Ouden, of the Technical University of Eindhoven, has found in her thesis that half of all malfunctioning products returned to stores by consumers are in full working order, but customers can't figure out how to operate the devices. Product complaints and returns are often caused by poor design, but companies frequently dismiss them as "nuisance calls".
The solution? Making the devices easier is one route, but that's very tricky when more and more features are added to complex devices. The other route is to make it easy to figure out how to use them - by supplying really good user documentation.
Friday, March 03, 2006
Using documentation in businesses to prevent losing customers
Would anyone value an article on using documentation in businesses to prevent losing customers? Is it just of passing interest or a real problem for others?
A Help file that makes money
Developing Help files that generate revenue - This doesn't sound like something you'd be interested in?