Here’s a challenge for you: can you find an experienced technical author who doesn’t have MS Word experience? I doubt it. Most technical authors will have to work in Word at some stage in their lives, if not professionally, then when they are training to be a tech writer. In that regard, I’m no different – I used Word extensively on the Technical Communications degree course and have used it professionally, on and off, for many years. I’m familiar with its features, unpleasant quirks, strengths and weaknesses, and can use it to create clear and effective documention for your business.
Manuals and Training Documents in MS Word
Microsoft Word is a word processing application and so is not really designed for creating long, complex manuals. Which is why you’ll often hear tech writers complaining about it. But when used appropriately, Word can be used to produce high quality documents that will serve your business well.
As a technical writer, I have used MS Word to create many different user manuals, including software manuals, training manuals, installation guides and operational instructions. I have also used Word to create HTML files and PDFs, but wouldn’t recommend it for the former – the HTML conversion is far from ‘clean’.
When it Makes Sense to Use MS Word
You can probably tell that Word isn’t my favourite tool for creating manuals. That’s because I have also worked extensively with Adobe FrameMaker, a product that, in my view, is far better suited to creating technical manuals – it is more stable than Word and is better at handling images. Newer versions of FrameMaker also support DITA, which could well be the way forward for single-sourcing documentation.
But there are clear benefits to using MS Word for manuals:
- Save Money on Licences
If your business already has MS Office, you will already have MS Word. This is an important factor if you intend to have multiple contributors to a document – buying licences for many users to use FrameMaker is potentially an investment you don’t need to make.
- Save Money on Training
People are usually familiar with MS Office and so can work in Word to a reasonable level without added training. FrameMaker is different and takes a while to get used to.
- High Quality Documentation for Small-Medium Documents
For short-medium length documents with a moderate amount of pictures, Word will serve you well. Usually, Word only starts to act up when you are producing longer, more complex documents with lots of links and images.
What about Sales Documents?
You can create sales documents in Word, but I wouldn’t recommend it. That’s because when you want to have your documents printed professionally, Word only has limited options available. This can cause your print costs to rise as printers may need to make more manual adjustments. If you are only distributing the sales documents electronically or are printing them off on a normal office printer, Word can produce good results. But you may find that there is always a slight margin on the edge of the paper as Word takes its margin settings from your printer driver.
For sales and marketing documents, there are better options available. If you really want a powerful application capable of producing high-end marketing material, take a look at Adobe InDesign or QuarkXpress. They are what the pros use, but they come at quite a hefty price. A cheaper alternative is Microsoft’s own Publisher application, which is a capable desktop publishing package that provides better layout and print option features than Word.
Whether you Use MS Word or Something Else, I can Help with your Documentation
I’ve used Word, FrameMaker, Flare, and InDesign professionally, and have also experimented with other authoring tools. So it doesn’t really matter what product you want to use – if I don’t know it already, I will soon pick it up. What is more important is that I have excellent technical writing skills, a proven track record, and am a qualified technical writer. I will produce winning content for your company, no matter what tool you use.
To get me on board, press the Hire Me button below and complete the contact form. I cover the Midlands area and can work remotely if you are further away. To avoid disappointment (and who doesn’t want to avoid that?), you might want to check my availability here too.