We were contacted last week by a SaaS developer who wanted to know if their solution might be of interest to companies needing to write and host their product’s user manual or online Help content. So what capabilities do Technical Authors look for in an authoring tool?
There were a few features that sprung to mind:
- Multi-channel publishing (for example: publishing to the Web, Microsoft Word and PDF). PDFs are still important as a publishing option, as people still like to read good quality printed content.
- Separation of look and feel from content.
- Content re-use (write once, re-use many times). This is different from simple cut-and-paste.
- Variables (so it’s easy to change product names).
- Conditional text (content that can vary depending on the type of user or type of product).
- Link management (being able to find content in the project quickly, as well as being able to manage the dependencies among links and topics).
- The ability to handle larger documents (200+ page documents with screenshots on most pages)
- Expanding/collapsing table(s) of contents (and even different tables of contents for different types of users).
- A user-friendly authoring environment.
- Version management of the content.
Ideally, there would also be:
- A way for occasional users to add and edit content without breaking formatting styles, using a User Interface that didn’t overwhelm them.
- Access to and shared management of the content. This is so that writers could collaborate with each other, working on different topics for publications at the same time.
Are there any other features you would expect?