Must Have Tools For Technical Writing
Every single day we learn about new tools for technical writing that are newly launched in the market making it overwhelming to pick out the best. So to make life easier for you and end your search, here are some of the best tools for technical writing available in the market.
In this list, we would be categorizing the tools for technical writing based on the scope of their usage.
- Research Tools
- Authoring Tools
- Organizing & Productivity Tools
- Content Creation Tools
The above list is the broad category of tools for technical writing which would have smaller subcategories too. Since Technical Writing is the process of simplifying complex information that can be easily understood by non-experts, a large number of tools have to be used to attain the best results. Every writing process begins with research and so let’s take a closer look at the research tools for technical writing.
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Research Tools for Technical Writing
Research is one of the most important stages of any form of writing as it directly impacts the quality of the work. The process can turn out to be extremely tedious without the proper tools for technical writing at your disposal. Research requires us to go through so much data and that can become extremely difficult to keep track of.
Note Taking Tools for Technical Writing
During the research phase, we would be going through various reference articles or be searching for relevant images. We might even be watching videos online that later on become reference points. So the optimal choice should be a tool that can help us keep track of all that data.
Google Keep is one of the most efficient tools for technical writing during the research phase. The reason to choose Google Keep is that we can create separate notes for each topic that is being researched and store links to websites, YouTube Videos, or even add photos directly to it.
The one downside to Google Keep is that it required internet access to be accessed. But in this given day and age, almost everybody has easy access to the web. If you are reading this article, then that itself does mean you have internet access.
Plus, if you are a person like me who likes to do your research across many devices then Google Keep is hands down the best choice. If you are using an offline tool like MS Word or notepad on your PC and find a great piece of information while researching on your mobile then it becomes difficult to sync all the data. So Google Keep is still one of the most convenient tools for technical writing despite its need for internet access.
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Screen Capture Tools for Technical Writing
At first glance, you might wonder why you would need a screen capture tool in this list as it is pretty obvious the inbuilt tools in a windows system itself allows us to easily take screenshots. But one key aspect of why this finds its place in the list of tools for technical writing is the advanced options it brings to the table.
First and foremost SnagIt has the option to take screenshots and record videos of the screen as well. But the most important aspect is that SnagIt allows us to do scrolling capture when it comes to screenshots. For example, let’s assume that there is a paragraph of text along with a few explainer images that you want to capture.
But what if they don’t fit in one single window even in the smallest size option? That’s when the panoramic capture facility kicks in allowing us to capture extensive portions of your screen. In addition to that, we can also define which part of the screen is needed for the scroll capture that would save you loads of time in the end when you are fine-tuning your work.
If a tool makes our work easier then it definitely should be on the list of must-have tools in technical writing and that’s why it has found its place here.
This is a very interesting tool that has a few unique features that fit your need. Page Layers can be used to take screenshots by using the built-in web browser that saves the image in Photoshop format. To be more clear, various elements of the page like images, texts, designs, etc. are saved as separate layers in the Photoshop format and so can easily be removed from the entire image without much trouble. This unique offering does make Page Layers make one of those tools for technical writing that we should keep an eye out for. Photoshop is definitely one of the much-needed tools for technical writing and we would be seeing more of it on a different topic.
Or if you feel that you would not be needing those many options and just need a basic screen capture tool to take notes or for reference, then the snipping tool is one of the best tools for technical writing. One can easily define the part of the screen that has to be captured and also highlights important points or take down important notes.
Authoring Tools for Technical Writing
So once the research phase is over the writing process begins immediately. The research could happen parallel and in tandem with writing as well, but the writing happens in these authoring tools for technical writing.
Google definitely provides some of the best tools for technical writing and Google Docs is definitely one of those best tools. It is a multi-user collaboration that enables multiple people to be working on the same project at the same time. This is a huge advantage over other offline offerings as it can increase productivity and transparency during the process.
There is absolutely no chance of losing the content as it is stored in our Google Drive as long as it is connected to the internet. There are three options available in Google Docs are Editing, Suggesting, and Viewing. So based on the role given to the collaborator the document can either be edited or just viewed to give feedback regarding the work.
Remember Google Keep? The specific reason for its recommendation during research is because when using Google Docs we can access the notes from Keep in parallel and use them as a reference while authoring our work. In addition to Keep one can also access Google Calendar to keep track of the timeline for completion and progress rate. Google Tasks can also be used for a way better collaborative effort by setting goals or assigning tasks to the people on the team.
The shortcomings of Google Docs are that it requires internet access and it does not have the best formatting options available when compared to MS Word. Almost any form of typing can be associated with MS Word given its high popularity. There is nothing much new to add to what we already know about MS Word.
The familiarity of MS Word actually makes it one of the most comfortable tools for technical writing. If you are looking to create documents like license agreements that do not require much formatting then Notepad ++ is an offline option that one could consider. Notepad ++ has vital tools like Spell Checker, Find & Replace and so on that are vital when typing such long documents. This makes Notepad ++ a better option than regular Notepad. Another tool we would be looking into later in the article is Adobe FrameMaker.
Adobe FrameMaker is best suited for very long documents that need to be published as it was designed for that very purpose. MS Word does do well for shorter documents and can struggle with graphics, indexing, and so on once it crosses 100 pages. The heavier the files, the more likely are the chances of Word crashing and so Adobe FrameMaker can help solve all such problems.
Adobe FrameMaker is definitely more complex when compared to MS Word but learning it will definitely have an advantage. Adobe FrameMaker finds its spot in the list of publishing tools for technical writing instead of authoring tools because of its complexity and particular advantage when the content needs to be published or printed out. Other forms of technical writing can still easily be accomplished using MS Word and the other tools we saw earlier.
Another Adobe that comes in handy is RoboHelp which is known as a Help Authoring tool that is used to publish ebooks, websites, and printed material. The most common places where we would have come across documents created in RoboHelp is in our windows systems.
When we press F1 in any software application a help window would open and this help window along with its content and links are created using RoboHelp. The major disadvantage of RoboHelp is that it is extremely costly. Unlike other Adobe products, we have seen or would see later in the article have more to offer for their price tag.
WordPress is another powerful tool for technical writing due to the various plugins options it has. These plugins make WordPress to become the smartest of the tools for technical writing. An example would be the YoastSEO plugin which gives suggestions to edit our document to make it the best possible version for the web. But the disadvantage of WordPress is that technical writing is not only for the web.
Technical writing happens across various platforms and different formats as well. But if you are looking at writing technical articles for the web then WordPress is a must-have tool in your arsenal of tools for technical writing. Also, make sure to check this article that explains in-depth how WordPress plugins help when it comes to SEO. Another extremely useful plugin would be Grammarly to quickly check on how well-written the article or blog is.
Organizing & Productivity Tools for Technical Writing:
Technical writing is not something that can be taken for granted. If it is taken lightly and handled without proper organized methods and tools then creating long manuals or documents can become a very complicated task. Let’s take a look at how you can organize all your steps and work efficiently along with your team.
It does not matter if you are working alone or working with a team. Asana works well in both scenarios to organize all the tasks and data that has been collected. With the help of Asana, you can assemble your team, assign tasks, see progress, and so on.
This makes sure that there is no overlap of work or any confusion on any individual roles in any project. Using Asana you can create a task for your teammate and then attach all the required images and links for them to carry out the task. Other files from Google Drive can also be attached to Asana. The tasks or the data collected can be categorized as per the requirements to easily access all the data whenever needed. Asana even has a mobile app that would come in handy.
Few other alternatives that are very similar and equally productive to Asana are Trello, ProofHub, Hive, and so on. You can visit this article to find out other productivity tools that are out there for your need.
You need not be worried if you are not using WordPress as Grammarly is available outside WordPress as well. Both paid and free versions are available and the decision to use them is entirely up to each individual. The free version itself is stacked with a lot of features. Grammarly keeps the passage free from having spelling, punctuation errors, and so on. Mainly we would be able to assess how well the article is written. For example, any redundancy in the words used will be pointed out. Grammarly makes sure the article is either in American English or British English and not a mixture of both. The tone detector which is in beta now is still a useful asset.
The paid version has more to offer like suggestions about grammatical errors. For example, it can help solve inaccurate usage of passive voice, point out wordy sentences, etc. So based on your preference you can choose either to be in your list of tools for technical writing.
Another useful way to use Grammarly even in your daily use is to install the Google Chrome plugin. Using that plugin one can keep many of their communications online like email free from basic errors. Another tool to better your grammar and make your text more readable is Hemingway which can be used to simplify the text similar to Grammarly. Hemingway is an alternative tool to Grammarly which you could use based on your performance.
Content Creation Tools for Technical Writing
Yes, the text is the most important content. But at the same time, to best explain various aspects of the text supporting images or videos would definitely be of value. So let’s dive into some content creation tools for technical writing that might come in handy.
The most common visual aids that one might require to enhance the understanding are flowcharts, circuit diagrams, architectural diagrams, etc. Microsoft Visio is one of the best tools out there when it comes to the creation of such content. For example, user manuals might require flowcharts to easily explain a step-by-step procedure. If there is a need to explain about a new chip then circuit diagrams can be used. Architectural diagrams can be used to explain building plans and layouts. Visio can be used in all these above cases making it one of the versatile tools for technical writing.
Adobe Photoshop is one of the most popular photo editing tools ever created. We already spoke about the Page Layers tool that would require Photoshop to be useful. Photoshop has a higher scope than just being used in Page Layers.
It can be used to create images and designs to help explain the concepts of your text. The main advantage of Photoshop is that any design that is needed can be made exactly the way we want it to be from scratch. If you are already well worse with Photoshop then it is one of the must-have tools for technical writing. The only disadvantage is that it takes time to learn Photoshop to that extent.
If you are new to such tools then developing a mild grasp over Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator would make a huge difference. Open-source sites like freepik, freevector provide us with templates in the supported formats based on our requirements. With those templates, we can easily make a few changes to get a professional design with the least effort.
Adobe Premiere Pro:
You might be faced with the challenge of making videos that would help better explain a few concepts. So knowing how to edit basic videos is a sure advantage. Adobe Premiere Pro makes it to the list of must-have tools for technical writing for this very reason.
Premiere Pro is one of the simplest yet most professional tools for video editing right now. One can easily overlay text over the video to explain the process clearly to the viewer. Even music can be added to the video to make it feel less monotonous. The latest version of Premiere Pro has the option to make use of motion graphics. Motion graphics have a load of templates that will be available online. So by making use of those templates we can get a more fancy-looking video too if needed.
Even though we would be able to get the best professional content with the maximum quality when using these Adobe tools it is important to keep the file size in mind. When creating videos or images for the web we need to find the balance between quality and size. The larger the file size the more difficult it becomes for the page to load on time.
So when it comes to images we can easily use online compression tools as image file size would be small. Some online tools are tinypng, compress jpeg, compressnow, and so on. Offline tools like Image Compressor and JPEG Compressor can also be used.
When it comes to video compression it is recommended to use offline tools as video file sizes could be larger. Handbrake is a very effective compression tool that has a lot of built-in customizable options one could use. These are some tools for technical writing that might come in handy when handling such content.
We have already seen the Adobe tools for creating images that might help explain the content. We have also taken a look at Microsoft Visio for flowcharts and so on. If you are looking for an online tool to create infographics that reduce the complexity of many types of content then Canva is your go-to option.
With the help of Canva, we can choose the template designs from the many options available. These designs can in turn be used to create a graphical representation of data. Though we can not create all elements like architectural design, circuit diagrams like how we do in Visio, Canva is still a simple and easy solution for graphical representation.
Similar to how graphical representation help understand the context more, animation videos are also a very strong way to communicate the information easily. Adobe Premiere Pro is a video editing tool but one cannot create animated videos with it.
That’s why Powtoon makes it to this list of tools for technical writing. It is very easy to make animations as per your need and requirements. This service is available for free but the disadvantage is that a watermark will appear on such videos. So if you are looking to avoid the watermark then definitely it has to be purchased. But if animation videos are not the core, then the free version would be of great use.
We have seen the various tools that would be needed during the process of technical writing based on their usage. These tools are not the only options that are in the market. There are so many other options that might suit you better. So hope this article gave you the perfect set of tools for technical writing. If not I hope it at least introduced you to the category of tools you would be using.