QR Tags – coming to your local Technical Author soon

We have been talking about the potential for using QR Tags since 2009, so it is great to see that MadCap Software has announced Flare version 7 will include QR Tag capabilities.

MadCap states:

In an online and searchable document, it is easy to include hyperlinks, URLs, etc., for users to access more information, but how do you enable this from a print document? With QR codes, authors can empower their users in ways never before possible, by giving them access to more relevant, actionable and up to date content wherever and whenever they need it, directly from any print document.

  1. Instead of creating a large manual with hundreds of pages, create a Quick Start guide with fewer pages. At the bottom of each page, step, topic, or procedure, add a QR code that allows users to access more detailed information online.
  2. For users out in the field that need access to updated information, include codes in printed manuals that direct them to the needed content in your Help system.
  3. You have a printed procedures manual with QR codes that, when scanned, link to movies showing the procedures in action.
  4. For external communication, include a QR code at the bottom of a document that takes them straight to a website where they can purchase a particular part or product.

Making predictions is a risky business – it’s possible to look back at our posts and see if our predictions have been spot on or widely off the mark. We believe it gives prospective clients some assurance we know what we’re talking about.

It’s a learning process. Do tell us if you agree or disagree with any of our predictions or if you think we’ve missed a trend.

Augmented Reality for maintenance and repair-BMW

BMW research projects – virtual world meets reality.


In future, the real world is set to combine with the virtual at BMW Service. BMW Augmented Reality creates this bridge and extends the real world by adding virtual information. BMW Service is planning to use this technology as a means to assist BMW Service staff in their highly demanding technical work.

The “Beyond Documentation” Webinar videos

Scriptorium Inc has uploaded the “Beyond Documentation” Webinar Ellis delivered back in August 2009. In this session he looked at the future of technical writing and likely changes to the ways in which user assistance is delivered.

We asked:

  • Are we moving beyond documents?
  • If so, what does this mean for technical communicators?

Part 1:


Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

You can see more videos on Cherryleaf’s YouTube channel.

 

Using barcodes to deliver Help text

Following on from our recent post about Google’s Augmented Reality application and the subsequent comments between myself and Anne Gentle, we thought it be useful to expand on our comments on how barcodes could also be a means for delivering Help text.

Google’s operating system for mobile phones, Android, includes barcode scanning capabilities. There’s free, open source software available, which means it’s easy to create your own barcodes that link to your support text, contact information, images, videos or specific Web pages on your site. There’s also a free open source library available for creating your own barcode scanning application (this will be the case with the iPhone, too).

For example, this barcode below, when scanned, says:

Ceci n’est pas un Help page.

This smaller one links to instructions on how to make a pot of cherry leaf tea:

Here’s a picture of the tea (it’s our latest corporate marketing gift). The barcode could be easily printed on the back of the label.

Our latest corporate gift :) on Twitpic

These will work with existing barcode scanning applications, such as ShopSavvy. You can test the barcodes above if you have ShopSavvy on your Windows Mobile, iPhone or Android phone, but we’d still recommend you consider developing your own scanning application.

Google, its new Augmented Reality service, and what it could mean for your product documentation

Google has launched its first Augmented Reality application – one that could affect greatly the field of technical documentation in the future. This is probably the most significant announcement in this field since Cherryleaf first began discussing augmented reality and its potential impact on technical documents back in 2008.

In 2008, we said:

There could be a time where you open up the bonnet of your car, point your mobile phone at the engine to (a) identify which part is which and (b) call up instructions on how to remove and replace a particular part.

This application, called Google Goggles, lets you use pictures taken with your mobile phone to search the Web. According to Google,

It’s ideal for things that aren’t easy to describe in words. There’s no need to type or speak your query – all you have to do is open the app, snap a picture, and wait for your search results.

There are a number of videos on YouTube, demonstrating it. Here’s one review:

Google Goggles is currently only available on mobile phones running Google’s Android operating system (version 1.6 firmware onwards).

So what does this mean for technical communicators today? Probably the most important thing you need to do is associate at least one image of your product with:

  • Any Web-based user documentation that you may have published
  • Your company’s Web site.

At the most basic level, this means checking any images on your Web site and their ALT text information.

For the more cunning of you out there, you could also look at guiding Google Goggles towards your Web site when people are using it to look at your competitors’ products!

How barcodes could be the technical author’s best new friend

The latest mobile phones in the UK are using barcodes to provide one of the first practical applications of augmented reality. It’s technology that could see barcodes appear on thousands of physical items – something which would open up new opportunities for technical authors providing user assistance for equipment.

The advert below shows how it’s being used today:

Barcode Scanning with T-Mobile G1


In the future, users could use their mobile phone to scan a barcode (like the one below) on an item to call up instructions on how to use it.


The consequence would be that technical communicators would need to write content that can be read easily on the screen of a mobile phone (until pico projectors become more widespread).

See also

Will Nokia’s new technology reinvent the manual?

Share Life with T-Mobile