Friday, March 12, 2010

UI guidelines for web applications

I've been looking for an industry standard guide to designing Web interfaces. Here I found a good list of guidelines for designers of user interfaces in various areas (Win, Mac, KDE, Java, AJAX, Flash, etc). Still I found nothing like MSDN guidelines for desktop apps, but intended for Web apps. :-(

What I need is a solid basis for our (upcoming) internal guidelines, that technical writers would use to write and translate texts in web applications. If anyone has ideas, please drop me a line where to look up for this sort of guidelines.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Guide to Technical Writing (1908)

I never thought that technical writing could be that old. See A Guide to Technical Writing by T.A. Rickard. This book was published in 1908, that is more than 100 years ago!

UPD: And here comes another artefact from the "good old times", a bibliography on "English for engineers" for the use of engineering students, practicing engineers, and teachers in schools of engineering, to which are appended brief selected lists of technical books for graduates in civil, electrical, mechanical, and chemical engineering. Published in 1916.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Mapping MS Word menu items from 2003 to 2007

When I migrated from MS Office 2003 to 2007, I read several tutorials to get up to speed with the new interface. But now and then I still had troubles guessing where a certain menu item could be hidden in 2007. I felt much happier when I found this interactive reference that mapped 2003 menu items to those in 2007. I still keep it at hand just in case.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Rates for freelance writers in the U.S.

Guys from Writing Assistance, Inc are offering a free estimate of hourly market rates for technical writers, instructional designers, copywriters, and designers at the U.S. job market (see the Free Publications column at WAI main page).

As I checked out the figures, I began to wonder whether the average rates are really that high (e.g. $50 to $80 per hour for a software techwriter of about my qualification). If so, what were the actual rates before the recent slump in 2008?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Documanga from Google

Googlers have come up with an awesome document about the architecture of their open-source web browser, Google Chrome. The book grasped 100% of my attention the very moment I opened the link.

This 38-page document is presented as a comic book drawn by the creator of the classic "Understanding Comics", Scott McCloud. The content is rather technical, but the graphics of real Chrome team members and direct speech in baloons are so catchy that I swallowed all the -- otherwise rather boring -- techie stuff immediately and had perhaps the most pleasant tech-reading this year. What a perfect way to tell a story! Grade A!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Techwriting by Ernest Hemingway

As Brian Clark wrote in his post Ernest Hemingway's Top 5 Tips to Writing Well, Hemingway followed very simple yet efficient writing rules in his prose:

  1. Use short sentences.
  2. Use short first paragraphs.
  3. Use vigorous English.
  4. Be positive, not negative.
  5. Dispose bad writing samples.
Surprisingly, this is what technical writers are often advised to consider.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

My new "digital inkpot"

This morning I got hold of yet another "freaky mouse" as one would call it: Wacom Bamboo A6 digitizer (a.k.a tablet). I've been considering this buy for 1.5 years now, doubting all the way if I'll really use it after my first wow's evaporate. But finally, I got "ready for a tablet". Yeah, I feel a happy hippo today. :-)

Here's what it looks like:

Like with the trackball, it took me some time to get used to the device. I liked the vendor's interactive tutorial: it brought me up to speed with the tablet in less than 30 minutes.

I initially planned to use the tablet for editing graphics, drawing raster / vector schemes, and adding smart hand-written callouts and notes to documents and images. Now I also consider the tablet as another handy alternative to a regular mouse. I liked to scroll / zoom in documents using the tablet's touch-wheel, and speed buttons proved nice to navigate back / forward in web browsers. Anyway, I'll need several weeks to fully test the tablet's usability and understand which tasks it covers best. First of all, I can't wait to try it out with pressure-sensitive image editors. The ability to draw wider / narrower lines by pressing the pen firmer / softer against the tablet impressed me in the tablet's tutorial.

P.S. Mind the round-shaped pen holder that looks very much like a real inkpot. Now I feel a real writer! :-D