11 Best Technical Writing Tools (2023 Version)
Technical writing tools can make your writing and formatting tasks a lot easier. If you are looking for such tools, then read this article to know about the best options available that you can leverage to make your task a tad relaxed.
Technical writing is the system of transforming representations, documents, oral communication, and illustrations into an instructive upskilling manual. Technical writing aims to administer a manual that elucidates the exercise to be carried out or makes a difficult conceptualization simpler to comprehend for a specific set of viewers.
Technical writing earlier used to be restricted to only user manuals and guides. With the evolution of time, newsletters, emails, press releases, and many more have also been taken into account. Technical writers are employed in this process where they are assigned a task of content curation so as to get the background details accurate and also simple to comprehend with the help of technical writing tools.
The stages involved during the usage of tools are writing, drawing, editing, reviewing, and rewriting. Given the diversity of the exercises at this stage, the technical writing tools implemented are also pretty much divergent and quite manifold.
As a technical writer, you are required to jot down every technical aspect to make an engrossing and enlightening document. Moreover, there is a requirement of documents being free from plagiarism and grammatical blunders, which should be taken care of. Therefore, in order to assist technical writers, there are numerous software tools for technical writing that produces first-class documents.
You might be interested to know the technical writing courses offered by top institutions. Also, check out the syllabus for the best Technical Writing Course.
Enumeration of top 10 technical writing tools:
Some of the essential tools, like for example, Microsoft Word, Google Docs, Grammarly, etc are compulsorily required when you are assigned a task relating to computer-based documentation. Having said that, technical writing tools have taken many forms to bring out the finest works. Technical writing doesn’t mean that your job is limited to the scope of writing only.
Technical diagrams, images, screen captures, and many other activities also form a part of this process. Therefore, technical writing tools are broadly classified into the following categories:
- Authoring tools
- Screen capturing tools
- Image editing tools
- Publishing tools
- Spell check tools
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Let’s have a closer look into each of the above categories.
Tool Number 1: Microsoft Word
Microsoft Word is the first tool that comes into the intellect of a technical writer when the person is entrusted with the task of content creation. This basic yet sophisticated tool is packed with a rich set of features. Microsoft Word is labeled as one of the best technical writing tools for content writers because of the following features:
- Mechanical proofreader, inherent grammar check potential, and highlighter.
- Pre-installed document templates, for example, brochures, flyers, troubleshooting guides, technical whitepapers, and the list continues. These are intended to make your document look apt.
- Track changes option under the head ‘Review’.
- Find and Replace option which is quite useful in quickly finding out the word, which you want to replace it with throughout the document.
- The document can be saved in different formats such as PDF, XPS, web page, plain text, Rich Text Format (RTF), and many more as per the individual requirement which is already inbuilt.
- A new feature named ‘Tell me what you want to do’ is an excellent characteristic of performing actions swiftly, which is a part of the latest version of MS -Word (2019 version).
Tool number 2: Google Docs
In a fast-evolving world, people are making a swift move to mobile phones for reading documents from the inconvenient mode of carrying a laptop, as Google Docs is increasingly capturing importance. Creating documents from square one might not be feasible on Google Docs, but collaborative review and editing are possible effortlessly via this cloud-based alternative to MS Office.
Google Docs, being a part of Google Drive, is a multi-user collaboration tool that can be accessed for free by users. With the help of this tool, collaboration and curation of content on a particular topic are highly possible with the involvement of myriads of users. In the present-day scenario, where most of the business undertakings are switching over to cloud-based technology, this tool is increasingly gaining importance by most of the businesses for 2 main reasons: to enhance the efficiency of their staff and make information promptly accessible on the cloud.
Moreover, users need not take tension related to versioning issues for the documentation. With the help of Google Docs, it becomes relatively easier to figure out who is operating on the document at any given point of time as users make developments to the content. In addition to this, the developments made to the content are spontaneously saved every few minutes to Google Drive. Therefore, the possibility of missing information or data does not arise at all.
There are 3 options in Google Docs- Editing, Suggesting, and Viewing. Under the editing option, it is possible to directly edit the document without the fear of being tracked of any changes made. Under the suggesting option, you will be able to track and edit your suggestions. Under the viewing option, you will be able to read or print the final document.
Google Docs is one of the popular free online word processors, though it suffers from the limitation of the requirement of internet access to view or edit documents.
Tool Number 3: Notepad / Notepad++
Notepad is the default text editor of Windows. Notepad is used for writing basic text file content such as ReadMe files or License Agreement files. Notepad is used in a situation where rich formatting capabilities are not a requirement. For example, you want to take quick notes while attending a meeting or conference, then the best choice would be Notepad. The simplicity associated with this makes it one of the most convenient and best technical writing tools.
Notepad++ is a very useful HTML editor for newbies. The basics of HTML programming can be learned successfully through this technical writing tool. Notepad++ supports a rich set of plug-ins. Multi-clipboard, Auto-Save, Code Compare- to name a few of them. Technical writers are required to make a choice between the different plug-ins, so that a basic newbie’s editor is modified successfully to a feasible alternative for online help editing.
Notepad++ is a modern text/ source code editor that supports additional languages. Notepad++ is enriched with features such as spell check, find and replace capability, which is very useful when your file is of a considerable length and you want to change various instances of a word. These features make Notepad++ earn plaudits as compared to Notepad.
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Screen Capturing Technical Writing Tools:
As a technical writer or blogger, it is a well-established practice to add screenshots of an application or product as they are the face of your application or product. Screenshots are the first thing people will notice when they land on your website or post. Screenshots of an application play a crucial role in decision-making.
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You need to take extra care in determining what to show and whatnot in the screenshot, for example, names, e-mail addresses should not form a part of the screenshot. Hence, it is vital that your screen capture tools support these capabilities to apply changes to the images.
Well, there is an end number of tools available to capture screenshots. So, let’s have a look at some of the common screen capture technical writing tools.
Tool number 4: Snipping tool
The Snipping tool is a great option when you are considering more sophisticated screen capture options as compared to PrntScr on your keyboard and is considered one of the best technical writing tools.
For an existing Windows user, the ‘Snipping tool’ is quite a useful and highly user-oriented tool that comes pre-built. With the help of this tool, you will be able to capture a screenshot of the complete screen, the window alone, or capture a section of the screen using the rectangular snip option.
You have an option of making a particular text look important by way of highlighting it using the ‘pen tool’. Moreover, various formats such as PNG, JPEG, GIF, etc are supported and accordingly, images can be saved in a format as desired by the user. You can also directly e-mail the snippet to an e-mail address as an attachment.
Tool Number 5: Snagit
Snagit is a user-friendly and high-octane screen capture software tool offered by TechSmith earmarked for technical writers and marketers. It supports multiple operating systems like Windows and macOS. With the help of Snagit, you can take a snapshot of your screen and save them in JPG, PNG format and share them with different outputs like FTP, Screencast, Camtasia Studio, etc.
These excellent features make Snagit a very popular, powerful, and one of the best technical writing tools:
- Ability to enhance the screenshots with arrows, circles, frames, etc.
- Video recording capability.
- Ability to take a snapshot of a specific scrolling area (horizontal/ vertical/ complete scroll area) from the window.
- Ability to capture drop-down menus.
- Editing images with borders, adding arrows, blurring out text, etc.
- Ability to combine multiple screenshots into one image.
- Panoramic capture- where you can control how much area to capture from the screen.
Image Editing Tools:
The presence of images is very much necessary in an article or blog post, whether technical or not, as they add charm to your content. But these images sometimes cannot be used as it is. Screen capture tools fail in this aspect: when an image requires editing or inserting text into it which calls for the right screen editing skills.
And these screen editing skills are usually executed by graphic designers. Having said that, you may not have the luxury to reach out to the graphic designer every now and then. So, it is imperative to have a basic knowledge of image editing software.
Tool Number 6: Adobe Photoshop
Originally created in 1988, Photoshop has seen tremendous growth with the evolution of time. It has been consistently ranked as the world’s leading and highly sought-after image editing tool for creating graphics and editing images. As per the Writers UA User Assistance Tool Survey, Adobe Photoshop is the 4th most sought-after tool by technical writers. It is a pixel-based general-purpose image editor tool and one of the best technical writing tools as well.
For the people who require an image editing tool on a regular basis, for example, professional designers, there is almost no substitute for Adobe Photoshop. But there is an alternative named GIMP for occasional users, which is open-source.
With the help of Photoshop, one can create user interface designs, web pages, banner ads for promotions on social media, video graphics, pixel manipulation, overlapping an image on the other, fine-tune a photograph so as to get rid of flaws, rectifying lighting issues and the list goes on. The process of image editing is reversible and incremental in nature so that changes can be rolled back easily.
Video making tools:
Presenting content via videos has gained immense popularity throughout the globe. It is widely used in the technical writing industry as well. It helps in explaining a product description and its features precisely.
Tool number 7: Powtoon
Animated videos are a wonderful way to captivate user attention and communicate the message in an engaging manner. Powtoon is a very good web-based animation tool that permits users to make animated presentations and explainer videos by manipulating pre-created objects, imported images, etc. The word ‘Powtoon’ is derived from a combination of 2 words – PowerPoint and Cartoon.
However, it suffers from 1 big disadvantage while using the free version as it would carry a ‘Powtoon’ watermark along with it. But there is an alternative to this – where you can pay a nominal amount to upgrade it to a premium version where you can create videos without the watermark and access to various other features.
Tool number 8: Prezi
Prezi is a very useful tool to make demos in the form of a video presentation. In the case of PowerPoint, where the content is firmly separated by way of slides, Prezi offers you just one huge blank canvas where you can go about writing, drawing on it- as you wish. The best way to make a continuous video presentation is zooming in or zooming out of the content in focus and shifting focus from one frame to another on the same canvas.
Although Prezi offers free to use version, it has also introduced a student trial version, which has nearly all the features of the paid version and is free to use. This is definitely one of the best technical writing tools to which content or technical writer should have access.
There are 3 different ways in which you can publish your documentation:
- Create your own website. WordPress is the next alternative when you have zero experience in handling a website.
- Publish your document on GitHub.
- Use an online documentation tool.
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Tool Number 9: Adobe FrameMaker
When you are engaged in leveraging a technique named ‘single source authoring’- a strategy adopted by technical writers to augment the re-use of prevailing written content rather than rewriting information, then Adobe FrameMaker is the suitable tool for that.
It is well suited for industrial standard documentation for documents extending over 200+ pages. It is also helpful for a lot of technical writers who have to produce a large amount of content each and every day. However, it is quite risky for companies having only 1 product line or newly established companies.
Adobe FrameMaker is a 100% DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture) compliant tool that is an XML-based open-standard for structuring, managing, developing, and publishing content.
It supports index creation across multiple documents, has rich formatting options, and has an inbuilt print feature. Moreover, you can draft content as per the defined template. Also, the performance snag is almost nil when graphics are introduced into the content.
Tool Number 10: Adobe RoboHelp
No computer user is unfamiliar with RoboHelp. Whenever you press F1 in any of your standard software applications, the help window that pops up is more or less, without any iota of doubt created with the help of RoboHelp.
Offered by Adobe Systems, RoboHelp is one of the most sought-after ‘Help Authoring Tools (HAT) that technical writers use to publish online documentation. It also facilitates technical writers to establish large-scale help projects and display them on multiple devices/ systems and in various formats such as PDF, HTML, DOC, etc.
RoboHelp is highly useful for businesses in rendering online help content and knowledge base articles. That is why it is considered one of the best technical writing tools.
The biggest limitation of RoboHelp is that it takes time to get habituated to the software. Moreover, it is a very difficult task to share the content with other users when collaborating with multiple users because the content lies within the tool.
Spell Check Tools:
As a technical writer or blogger, content quality is an essential benchmark for ranking better than competitors, and correct spelling and grammar are a fundamental part of content quality. Article writing is not really that difficult, but the real challenge lies in proofreading the content and ensuring it is flawless. Therefore, spell check tools are a must-have and one of the best technical writing tools to increase quality content.
Tool Number 11: Grammarly
Grammarly is one of the most sought-after and extensively used by technical and content writers. Grammarly offers both free as well as premium (paid) versions, which can be used as an online text editor. Also, it functions as a free extension for Chrome, Firefox and Safari browsers. It is a must-have for a content writer and one of the best technical writing tools in the market.
Grammarly is capable of pinpointing the mistakes swiftly and offers suggestions to rectify the errors. You can add the terms specific to your requirement to the dictionary in order that Grammarly won’t flag them as errors in the future.
Grammarly also offers a very interesting feature – plagiarism checker which has an internal logic of classifying the content as copied or genuine by scanning billions of web pages.
You can also have a look at few other Grammar checker tools.
As the scope of technical writers is not limited to a specific industry and are entrusted as a primary responsible source for the purpose of generating quality documentation, it is quite imperative to make use of the right tools for technical writing. Also, a sound balance is to be struck between the usage of various tools. It is also the task of technical writers to decide which are the best technical writing tools that will make their task a bit easier.
Well, it is also quite imperative to jot down the features offered by each tool, make a thorough comparison and then select the tool which is to be used. The selection of the right tools results in benefits such as capturing users and generating quality content.
Frequently Asked Questions:
1.What differentiates technical writing from other forms of writing?
With reference to the basic structure, the spelling and grammar of technical writing are exactly similar to other forms of writing. The significant distinction arises in respect of purpose and style. Strictly speaking, technical writing is purely pragmatic in nature. The aim is to communicate information, not to engross, entertain, or trigger strong feelings.
2. What is the intention behind technical writing?
The idea behind technical writing is to present the information which is highly complicated in nature to the readers in a manner that they can easily comprehend and apply, despite them not having a preliminary understanding of the topic.
3. What are some of the common mistakes made by technical writers?
Some of the common mistakes made by technical writers are:
- Chaotic structure.
- Over usage of words that are difficult for others to comprehend.
- Poor punctuations.
- Too much abstraction.
- Lack of consistency.
- Dense presentation.