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Top 11 Technical Writing Tools

Posted by
Anastasia in Technical Writing on 5/28/20196 min read

Women

Technical writers use a lot of supplementary tools, not just technical writing software. Some of those are complex and expensive, others are much cheaper and nonetheless manage to do their job just fine.

Further you will find the top technical writing tools techcomm specialists all over the world choose to aid them in help authoring.

Video Making - Camtasia

Woman working

This is a tool for video recording and editing. A lot of technical writers believe that this is a great alternative to multimedia giants like Vegas Pro and Adobe Premiere. And, this is true on many levels - Camtasia is a straight-forward, almost linear solution to video making.

It might be lacking some pro Adobe Premiere features, but it walks you through all video creation steps with such ease that even an inexperienced technical writer can be satisfied with the final result.

Earlier Camtasia versions gave off the vibe of functionality limitations, that's true. Working in Camtasia after Adobe Premiere felt pretty limited. But, TechSmith, the people behind this product, have done a great job - later Camtasia versions feel like powerful video editors without losing its initial user-friendliness and simplicity.

But this is not the only creation of TechSmith that holds a special place on the list of tech writers’ favorite tools. Here's another great solution for documentation writing - Snagit.

Taking Screenshots - Snagit

An average person wouldn't know why someone needs an alternative to the Print Screen button to take a screenshot. But, when you develop technical documentation... Oh, you know exactly why!

Screenshots in technical documentation are not just some pictures. Without them, it would be extremely hard to comprehend content in many cases. Tech writers ‘embellish’ their screenshots with all kinds of stuff - arrows, circles, frames...These elements help readers faster understand screenshots.

Snagit has a lot of pre-made sets of elements to offer. They are easy to apply and they keep your documentation consistent and professional-looking. Overall, Snagit is simply a pleasure to work with - TechSmith is good at creating great UX.

Audio Editing - Audacity

Ok, so, supposedly, you have created a screencast, took some screenshots and are ready to create a video out of it. One key component is missing though - audio. Audacity is a free audio recorder and editor. It is a great lightweight solution for voiceovers. Technical documents can contain video tutorials, quick feature introductions, product overviews, etc. And, all this video content would require high quality sound that Audacity can provide. It is quite a universal tool, really. It works for Windows, Mac OS, GNU and Linux. You can cut tracks, add smooth fade in and fade out effects, improve audio quality by removing hiss, hum, static. Audacity both exports and imports FLAC, WAV, AU and a couple more formats. A handy tool with a nice toolset.

Text Editing - Microsoft Word

Keyboard

Although most software tools for technical writing come with a built-in text editor, turns out, not every technical writer is satisfied with what they've got. Microsoft Word is still used as an alternative text editor sometimes. Knowing that, our team created a powerful WYSIWYG editor for ClickHelp. We believe that having to write text outside of your technical documentation software hinders the work process a lot.

Management - Jira

Those tech writers who prefer an agile approach to help authoring enjoy Jira a lot. This management service is feature-rich and can bring velocity to a documentation writing process. Initially, this tool gained popularity among software developers as an issue-tracking solution, but, later, tech writers adopted Jira and fine-tuned it according to their needs.

In Jira, doc teams create tasks, set up deadlines, discuss things and track progress. And, they can get a lot of useful information from Jira, as well, by checking out the development side of things there - what features are going to make it into the next release, and what the work progress is. Jira is all about organizing and tracking things. If you feel that you need more of that, you should give it a try and see if it fits.

Coding - WebStorm

Technical writing skills can stretch as far as coding. This is especially true for documentation teams in software development. So, technical writers are also on the lookout for good IDEs, and many techcomm pros choose WebStorm. WebStorm is a JavaScript IDE for devs with a number of niche features that can make coding comfortable: smart code completion, refactoring, on-the-fly error detection. Well, of course, tech writers don’t need to use programming languages too much, they mostly just need to add a couple of lines of code here and there to provide examples for readers. But, still, it is more convenient to do this in a tool like WebStorm.

Spell-checking - Ginger

A nice alternative to Grammarly, a spell-checking tool called Ginger. Ginger is said to have unmatched accuracy when it comes to spell-checking, grammar correction and detecting misused words. One of its prominent features is tutoring. The tool can analyze your mistakes and suggest topics you should revise. That's a very nice touch, especially for those who are creating content in English, though it is not their first language. This can definitely improve your credibility as a technical writer.

Creating To-Do Lists - Wunderlist

Wunderlist works great for all us list-junkies. Add tasks and subtasks, systemize them into folders, check the tasks off when they are completed in a user-friendly environment. Ahh, perfection! But there's more. You can also set up due-dates and reminders, which is awesome for tracking important assignments. This tool opens possibilities for collaboration - lists can be shared with colleagues and commented on. To-do lists can improve your time management and boost efficiency, that's true. Just make sure that your addiction with list creation is not a hidden form of procrastination :)

Interviewing SMEs - Parrot

Interviewing SME

Parrot is a voice recorder app for your phone. And, it can come in handy when working with subject matter experts. Just prepare your questions in advance and set up a meeting with your SME. If you are using a voice recorder, no information will be lost. Just be sure to ask for permission to record your conversation beforehand :)

The tool's interface is dead simple, but don't be deceived by this, the app actually comes with some really nice features like noise suppression, echo cancellation. There's also an option to share your recordings on social media. The quality of sound depends on your hardware, as well, but, the app won't ruin it for you, don't worry, the recording quality is high on the tool's side.

Adobe Products

A lot of technical writers understandably have different Adobe tools on their top technical writing software lists. These include Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Premiere and everything in between. Although there are many alternatives to each of these tools, Adobe is without a doubt a trend-setter here. Some of the advantages it has are the connections between software (for example, you change something in After Effect, and it gets changed automatically in the corresponding Adobe Premiere project) and intuitive UI's. Well, you still need to learn a couple of Adobe tools to feel comfortable with the other ones, but the amount of work Adobe puts into this unification is incredible.

Brain

When asked about favorite software for technical writing, many technical communicators just answer 'my brain’ or 'common sense’. And, no one can argue with that. Even the best technical writing tools won't be of much help when common sense is lacking. For example, you can work with Snagit and create great screenshots, but have you considered the perfect text/image ratio for your specific technical documentation type? Although this answer seems a bit sarcastic, we very much agree with it. Your brain is the best tool you get :)

Conclusion

Modern software documentation tools almost fully cover technical writing processes - such tasks as screen capturing, video editing, screenshots making require additional software. Feel free to share in the comment section below your favorite tech writing tools that help you create different elements of technical documentation.

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

 

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