What Types of Technical Writing Equipment is Used in Michigan?

In the state of Michigan, the competition for technical writing jobs is pretty tough. While potential employers take a lot of different factors into consideration when trying to determine which technical writing applicant to hire, one of the biggest factors is whether or not that writer can use all of the necessary equipment. Training writers to use equipment is costly and time consuming, so employers want to avoid this at all costs. While there is no way to say for certain what kind of equipment each job will use, your best bet to have success in the field is to familiarize yourself with and have a working knowledge of all of the most basic ones.

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Publishing tools are an important part of being a technical writer. FrameMaker is one very commonly used publishing program that allows you to create, save, and print text files. A similar publishing tool that most users are familiar with is Microsoft Word, which is a basic word processor but gets the job done affordably. Some technical writing jobs will also require you to know how to use Interleaf, a XML SGML authoring program. If XML SGM authoring is a necessary part of a job and that job doesn’t use interleaf, then it will probably use ArborText, the second most commonly used program of its time. Quark Express is a publishing tool frequently used for four floor color, and Pagemaker is a popular publishing tool great for creating graphics and unique layouts.

In addition to being very familiar and competent with the publishing programs listed above, you also have to know your way around various graphics tools to give your documents the look and style you and your employer want. Popular programs include Illustrator, a simple, easy to use program for basic technical illustration and graphics design; Corel Draw, also user friendly and appropriate for hand drawing graphics; PhotoShop, the most commonly used graphics programs best known for its many unique and innovative effects; and Paintshop Pro, an affordable feature rich painting program.

Help programs are another necessity for those technical writers who will be documenting software as part of their jobs. RoboHELP is probably the most commonly used program, and it will walk you through the entire process step by step. Doc to Help is another popular option that you should be familiar with, and there’s also ForeHelp, which is the only program of its kind that can work without Microsoft Word.

And, perhaps most important in today’s increasingly virtual world, is the use of web design tools. If you don’t learn any other technical writing skills, then you should still learn the most basic web design tools. Common choices in the industry include FrontPage, which writes proprietary code; HomeSite, which is an all HTML website creation too; Cold Fusion, which tends to be most commonly used for those massive commercial sites; Dreamweaver, for site management and scripting; BBEdit, which is only for use by Mac users; and Arachnophilia, a free program for HTML authoring. There are, fortunately, a lot of good online resources out there for those who need assistance learning how to use the various web design programs. Good ones to check out include the HTML Writer’s Guild, which will keep you up to date on the latest HTML happenings; W3C for all things official in HTML; HTML Goodies, which offers free tutorials; UserActive, also offering tutorials and great for beginners; Matts Scripts for Java and CGI scripts; and Eskimo North, which lists popular links to help you add the final touch to your project.

Schools offering online and campus-based education programs in Michigan:

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