In the world of technical writing it is important that you are able you to easily and effectively create, review, edit and publish your content. There are tools for that.
Help Authoring Tool
HAT (Help Authoring Tool) is a software program used to create online help systems. Tools like that help you create your technical content. But there are also tools, which apart from enabling to create, help to publish and manage the content in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
These tools, of course, can vary with regards to the specific features they offer and it’s good to know that.
MadCap Flare enables you to publish reusable content across different platforms and devices, for a wide range of usages and audiences. It makes it possible to just create the content, rather than format it all the time and it also provides accuracy and consistency in content production and publication. Flare is based on the topic-structured approach, which means the content is built around specific subjects and you can manage it in any way necessary, being able to add and remove the content parts accordingly.
MadCap offers also various additional products. Being in the translation industry, my attention immediately turned to MadCap Lingo. A CAT tool to be used when in need of creating a multi-language content. This is an important detail to know if your company needs its content to work in local markets.
Paligo takes pride in using the structured authoring, meaning it’s based on an open standard like XML as the source format, which means more consistency and order within the content. Depending on your take on the rules, XML and adapted forms of HTML, you can decide on the tool you need for your content. Most of them are based on open standards anyway these days, like XML, CSS and other. If you ever need to migrate to a different tool, it’s good to know how hard or how easy it will be to do that from the current tool you use.
Both tools have different additions, like MadCap Lingo or MadCap Contributor for easier and better access to review and submit the content, and many more, like MadCap Analyzer, Mimic, or Pulse. All of them helping the technical writers’ teams to do their job in an efficient and cost-effective way. The same goes for Paligo, which has a built-in version management for technical writers only. It makes their work easier. Not to mention the full workflow to access review and content contribution, and other useful features, like chat on a timeline and project planners. The choice depends on how your team works, really.
Talking about HATs would not be possible without mentioning the well-known and newly reinvented Adobe RoboHelp. Let’s not forget about the documents you can create using this tool, like e-learning modules,
e-books, help files of all kinds (Web and HTML), online user manuals and many more. The conditional text feature allowing you to create multiple editions of the same source files by tagging the content is a useful one. The same can be said about dynamic filtering, which helps you save time by selecting your own kind
of help instead of having to go through the whole document. Adobe RoboHelp is fully integrated with Adobe FrameMaker and it can import files from different formats, MS Word, DITA Map, XML files, to name only a few.
All of these tools have multiple features, that can make the technical writers’ work efficient. They all are user-friendly. They all offer outstanding technical support and remarkable results, of course.
Do you need it?
If your company releases new products and you create content for them, spending too much time on copying/pasting the specific paragraphs from one book/manual to another, then yes, you need it. You will see how easy it is to work on your content, update it and manage the necessary changes without the need for reviewing the content each time.
Time is of the essence in the fast-growing businesses. Money is essential in business growth planning. Thanks to the tools, more and more advanced, these two are easily manageable, through the effective, easy and professional content management systems available on the market.
The only thing to do is make a choice. And make it an educated one. One thing is for sure: no matter the workflow and the size of your authoring and tech team, you’ll find something that matches your environment and delivers the results you and your customers expect.