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By David Odell
There is an underlying trend to use a Wiki to produce technical documentation. Wikis have been used by developers for a number of years and, as a technical writer, you need to collaborate with the developers, and using this format will make it more palatable for them.
The Wiki format for actually creating documentation could be a problem to certain technical writers. The reason for this is that a lot of writers tend to be very secretive in what they are producing. This has always been possible if you are using desktop software, and the only storage of your current document is on your own machine, rather than using a program such as SourceSafe or ClearCase, though most companies these days, to use some kind of document control management system.
How will the old school of technical writer, be able to cope with the fact that the moment they have written a technical description or procedure have it virtually live throughout the development team.
I believe it will not be long before we see the majority of documentation tools being online, and not being discrete software installed on the user machine. This will be in parallel with the movement of more development applications online, but this will not just be limited to SaaS setups.
The advantages of using a Wiki are as follows…
- Easy to install
- Have a simple, consistent page layout
- Easy to create and maintain structured, up-to-date documents:
- Easy to access through the web, with simple login or without any login
- Easy to modify, no need to know HTML
- Easy to link pages
- Easy to create simple and consistent pages
- Easy to search
- Easy to extend with external pages.
- Easy to distribute for formal reviewing and tracking comments
And from the research side s of writing your documents:
- Easy to get collaborative efforts from the developers
- Easy to grab information directly from the developers witty wiki.
- You will be able to see what new ideas are being added to be product you’re writing about or what planned ideas look like they’re going to be non-starters.
So how do you get the finished document from the Wiki to a hard copy manual?
Most Wiki types allow files to be exported in OpenDoc format, which itself is compatible with most office suites.
Now are you are you confident enough in your ability to have your “Work in Progress” continually subject to prying and subjective eyes?
David Odell has been a freelance technical writer for over 25 years. Having worked on varied projects from Bakers Ovens to Flight Simulators and Accounting Software to Medical Equipment all over Europe, he is used to writing to different audiences in different countries. He is now exploring different writing genres and related topics. [http://www.daveodell.co.uk]Dave Odell Freelance Writer, [http://www.techauthors.co.uk]Technical Authors Resource