Help Authoring Tools, MS Word, and Google Docs

Posted by
Elmira in Technical Writing on 12/22/20215 min read

hat and keyboard

When most people hear the word “hat”, they think about headwear. But for technical writers, this is an abbreviation of a help authoring tool (HAT).

Help Authoring Tools are used by technical communicators and software authors to create, publish, and distribute help files, manuals, and documentation.

What Is a Help Authoring Tool?

Help Authoring Tools are software solutions for companies. It is a professionally prepared help via a digital authoring system. Originally, help authoring tools were bulky instruction manuals hard to use despite all the required information available. They were difficult to read and too heavy to be used together with a product. Nowadays, all consumers are looking for online help documentation to understand the use of their bought products better.

Help Authoring Tools work by using simple formats like HTML, for example, which is stored and transported as Win Help or other similar formats for web-based applications. For example, you saw HATs as an FAQ section or support document section on a company’s website. Such tools assist authors in building the help system and publishing it for deployment on a website or delivery with a product. In addition, HATs offer text formatting and image formatting features, as per industry standards, to professional writers and technical authors.

There were times when all HATs produced content that looked the same. This was the case 10 or more years ago, but today’s HATs give authors a significant amount of control over the content's final appearance. The latest HATs are also able to provide index generation and can create a table of contents according to a related set of files, they are able to incorporate images, most software also allows easy transactions for the current XML files in order to update the help information posted on web-based servers.

Functions of a Help Authoring Tool

The common functions of HAT include:

  • New users onboarding. As users explore your product, they may have questions regarding the different functionalities of your platform. And if you are ever looking to create an online knowledge base full of helpful articles and technical product manuals, you can’t do without a Help Authoring Software simply because it will save you from lots of work.
  • Explanation of product value for visitors. User value is specifically about what happens when they actually use the product, so deploying a help authoring tool is instrumental in generating top-quality documentation that customers can use to solve common problems on their own.
  • Creation and maintenance of informative technical writings about the product. A HAT will enable you to work on different file formats at once. Help authoring tools allow teams to write and edit together, share responsibilities, and create documentation collaboratively. Thanks to a user management system that assigns different roles and responsibilities to each member and team.
  • SEO. A HAT helps to create a content hierarchy with indexes or tables of contents, interlink related content, and expand on common topics. This will encourage people to visit your websites on Google often, as Google displays websites based on their well-composed and keyword content.

person using apple

Why Is ClickHelp Better Than MS Word?

MS Word is a tool that helps to create content. If you make any kind of documents, you can use MS Word since it’s simple to understand and use. However, there is another side to this simplicity - Word functionality is very limited. For a technical writer, keeping track of updates, revisions, and repurposed content serves as a distraction from producing quality content. In the past, there was no option but to have someone manually keep things organized.

ClickHelp combines a word processor with a variety of specifications designed to facilitate the content publishing process. For example, content once created can be reused multiple times throughout the documentation, thus saving the labor of work repetition. In addition, the content can be previewed to mark its final layout and edited for any changes before publication. You can also import existing files and manage them in various formats. Translations can also be done in the same portal as the original documentation.

HAT as an Alternative to Google Docs

Google Docs is closer to help authoring tools than MS Word by features. It allows you to create, collaborate, and share documents, presentations, drawings, etc. Google Docs is packed with features, which can be extended with various add-ons. It automatically saves the file online and stores it there, but you can also publish your documents as a web page, download or e-mail them as an attachment in various formats (for example, Word, ODT, PDF, plain text, or RTF). In addition, you can work with other people collaboratively on the document or only allow others to view it without the ability to edit it. All it takes is a Google account.

HAT tools. Fully-featured text editor where authors can evaluate all of the advantages of a word processor with a media library to include video and graphical elements within the manual. They also have such necessary components for productive operation as collaborative work, content migration, integrations (for example, with Google Analytics or Youtube). All of these combine to make the author’s job faster and much less tedious than before.

laptop desk

Conclusion

HATs help authors build the help system and publish it for deployment on a website or delivery with a product. When choosing which tool to apply in your technical writing work, it is essential to consider what you need from your help authoring tool and your business’s overall needs. You don’t want to risk choosing a tool that turns out to be too basic and won’t scale with your plans. At the same time, you don’t want a system bogged down by features that you don’t need.

Many of the dedicated help authoring solutions focus on one thing: customer support. Yes, it’s great for customer service, but you can also use it for employee onboarding, collaborating on a presentation, or sharing the latest sales figures — all in one tool. And, ClickHelp could be the one for you! Sign up for a free trial to see for yourself.

Good luck with your technical writing!
ClickHelp Team
Author, host and deliver documentation across platforms and devices

 

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