Tips to Learn a New Authoring Tool

It’s impossible to master an authoring tool and then set to work. During tight deadlines, you will be expected to bring out immediate results and in such a situation you have no option but to execute. If you have not used an authoring tool all your life, there are easier ways to learn.

Learning a new authoring tool is a child’s play if you know how to go about it. Dreamweaver, Robohelp/JavaHelp, Photoshop, Captivate/Camtasia, Framemaker, HTML and CSS is a must know for any Technical Writer.

It should take you not less than a month to learn all of these provided there is ample initiative from your side.

Based on my experience, here are some tips for getting you going.

#1  Setting your Target

Write down what you propose to do with the tool or rather how the tool would be of use to you in creating the user manual. This will help you learn what is absolutely essential.

For example most help manuals are generated as htm files. Most people use Dreamweaver to achieve the purpose. To create a good htm file, you need to learn the following:

  1. Basic HTML

  2. Basic CSS

  3. Attach style sheets

  4. Create tables

  5. Create Framesets

  6. Insert images

  7. Create hyperlinks

  8. Create Named Anchors

#2 Plan of Action

After you set your target, start playing around with the tool in the sense click all available buttons, observe the pop ups/ dialog boxes.

If it is the first time you are using an authoring tool, you are likely to get confused. Do not panic. This exercise will get you familiarized with the features. You will get to know key feature names.

Then check the Help Manual. Since you already know what to look for, search for relevant topics. Follow the steps in the help manual and try them out using the authoring tool.

If you get too bored with the manual, check out for video tutorials. Most authoring tools provide video tutorials. As and when you watch the demo/video, perform the steps using the authoring tool.

At any point if you are clueless on how to proceed with a specific task using the tool, do a Google Search. It really helps.  For example, I was totally clueless on how to create Named Anchors and Frames using Dreamweaver. I searched hard on Google and got detailed tutorials on these topics.

You learn best when you learn on your own. So never post queries on web sites or ask your colleagues to help you unless its absolutely essential. Here are useful links to learn authoring tools:

Dreamweaver

HTML and CSS

Photoshop

MS Paint

Captivate

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2 Responses

  1. I’ve got some tips to improve the performance of photoshop on one of my posts here

    http://hackspot.gotdns.com/blog/sysadmin/performance-tips-for-photoshop-cs2-for-windows-xp/

    Nice blog you’ve got here. Cheers!

  2. hey, just now i said the contents of ur blog are not my cuppa. but i think i found one useful website reference to learn html!

    thanks, rupa.

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