Replacing FrameMaker with OpenOffice.org Writer

Replace Adobe FrameMaker with OpenOffice.org Writer? Most people’s first reaction is amused disbelief. “FrameMaker is a hugely capable publishing product,” my editor at Newsforge admonished me. “OOo is a marginally competent word processor.” However, a functional comparison of several important desktop publishing features in both products shows that the products are more comparable than you […] Continue reading ...

Hitching with Clipboard and Pen Along the Open Road: A Tech Writer’s Guide to the Open Source Movement (Part Two)

In Part One of this two-part series, you got a look at the history of the Open Source movement, saw how Open Source projects can be a positive environment for technical writers, and got an introduction to the Free Documentation License. Following in Part Two, you’ll find out about tools that Open Source writers use, […] Continue reading ...

Tech Writer’s Guide to the Open Source Movement (Part One): Hitching with Clipboard and Pen Along the Open Road

As a tech writer, you may be exploring single-sourcing–producing multiple document outputs from a single information source–as a possible option for easing document development and production. Although solutions such as databases, SGML, and XML are available that can enable you to reuse information to produce multiple outputs, single-sourcing doesn’t have to involve such complex solutions, […] Continue reading ...

Taking Your Show on the Road: Constructing and Using an Online Portfolio

After I spent days wandering the aisles of warehouse stores looking for a five-inch binder, the idea of rethinking my portfolio started to make sense. Eventually I found the binder, but it was cheap plastic, not the brass and leather that had been my portfolio’s original housing. Clearly, my practice of simply adding a new […] Continue reading ...

Tech Writers, Grammar, and the Prescriptive Attitude

Most technical writers are confused about grammar. On any day on the TECHWR-L list, basic questions are asked: “Is ‘User’s Guide’ or ‘Users’ Guide’ correct? Maybe ‘Users Guide?’” “Should ‘web’ be capitalized when used to refer to the World Wide Web?” “Which is right: ‘A FAQ’ or ‘an FAQ?’” Many of these questions become the major thread on the list for a day or two, generating far more debate than they’re worth. The confusion isn’t so much about the grammatical points themselves. It’s about the nature of grammar in general. Apparently, many tech writers do not see grammar as a set of conventions to help them write clearly. Instead, to judge by the wording of the questions and responses, they see grammar as a set of unchanging rules that can provide definitive answers in every situation. Continue reading ...