TechWhirl: Technical Communication Recap for July 6, 2012

With the US celebration of Independence Day comes another American tradition—baseball’s All Star Break. That period between July 4th and the “Midsummer Classic” that pits the stars of the American League against those of the National League. Baseball fans get to vote on who the All Stars will be each year, and the game is accompanied by hoopla of involving fans and sponsors, the inevitable seventh inning stretch, and the partaking of mass quantities of hot dogs, peanuts, and various adult beverages. In addition to the weekly roundup and Independence Day wishes, TechWhirl presents its own All Star Break, in which we bring back the top five posts of 2012... Continue reading ...

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Building E-Books: A Tool Overview for Technical Writers

As e-books become another option for publishing technical content, writers are faced with more choices among the tools to produce them. In my previous articles on e-book readers and formats, I noted the similarities between e-book formats and the online help formats that technical writers have been using for many years. In this article, I’ll look at some of the tools you can use to create EPUB books, the most common e-book format. I’ll also show how you can convert an EPUB to Amazon’s Kindle format. Continue reading ...

technical communication recap

TechWhirl: Technical Communications Recap for May 4, 2012

One of the busiest threads on the TechWhirl email discussion list this week epitomizes the challenges when “traditional” technical communications intersects with the goliath of social media, Facebook. Monique Semp decided to turn to the list for wording/word suggestions about what happens when users “follow” other users, or “friend” (verb) in the parlance of Facebook itself. A fascinating discussion on several levels... Continue reading ...

TechWhirl: Technical Communications Recap for February 10, 2012

Am I the only one who thinks February is actually the longest month, no matter what the calendar says? We’re only into the second week of the month, but it seems like at least three or four weeks already. Like the duration of a pretty cold month, perception has much more to do with technical writing and technical communications than we realize during the course of a so-called average day. Continue reading ...

TechWhirl: Technical Communications Recap for January 20, 2012

We hear the phrase “technical communications is at a crossroads,” or something similar, in a flurry of activity about once or twice a year. Perhaps it’s the nature of the technical communications profession to always be at some sort of crossroads, since we are the stewards of efforts to socialize and embed the always-changing technology within our cultures. If that’s true, we may need to start thinking of “change agent” as one of our many monikers. Continue reading ...

E-Book Formats

Most technical writers understand online help formats and have worked with at least one over the years. Help file format have evolved from man pages (manual pages in UNIX in the early 1970’s) and HLP files through CHM files and the plethora of HTML-based formats that we have now. E-Book formats are similar in many respects to the common online help formats, but with one crucial difference; they’re designed to work on the small screens of today’s e-readers and tablets. Continue reading ...