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Technical Documents

Technical Documents

Technical Documents

Is there other software besides Word that can be used to make manuals or other technical documents? Not sure if this is the best place to ask.

RE: Technical Documents

"LibreOffice" : free and compatible with Office (word, excel, powerpoint)

RE: Technical Documents

Thanks all, I should have searched a little better. I found a thread with lots of info regarding this.

RE: Technical Documents

I use Libreoffice (a free Word like program). Word and Libreoffice are great and have features you likely won't use. Any good word processing program likely works, well. Decades back I'd tried using a relational database for specs, but it was too unwieldly and gave up with that approach.

Rather than think climate change and the corona virus as science, think of it as the wrath of God. Feel any better?


RE: Technical Documents

My various employers' technical writing depts have always used word, so I assume this to be the standard. Despite my norm being design, I have authored O&M and installation manuals and never found the Word application limiting.

RE: Technical Documents

There probably are non-manual "quick start" guides that might do slightly better in a page layout program like Publisher or Framemaker. Nevertheless, Word can probably hack its way through most of any of the built-in functions in the other two programs.

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RE: Technical Documents


Technical writers may advocate publishing software like Framemaker. I claim that your manual preparation software must be operable by people who know how your machines work.

LibreOffice and Microsoft Word work way better if everyone learns how to use the Styles and Formatting.

Office Suite Abuse


RE: Technical Documents

Used Word Perfect, years ago... blazingly fast compared to MS Word, at the time.

Rather than think climate change and the corona virus as science, think of it as the wrath of God. Feel any better?


RE: Technical Documents


I have fond memories of PordWerfect too, but Microsoft Word and the later Open/Libre Office are very different, and need to be used differently.

I am using LaTeX here at home. It outputs to PDF efficiently and reliably, and generally to HTML. It won't export graphics to RTF. I don't expect the OP's co-workers to be eager to learn it.


RE: Technical Documents

During my MSc theses I was fond on LaTeX, but never used it ever since - though it's the best in making a perfect lay-out.

- You never get what you expect, you only get what you inspect.

RE: Technical Documents

If you need to translate your documents into multiple languages there is ArborText. We used it for publishing technical manuals where the software would do the language conversion. BUT, always good to have a native speaker proof read the final document for any idiosyncrasy issues.

"Wildfires are dangerous, hard to control, and economically catastrophic."

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RE: Technical Documents

Another LaTex fan here. It is/was powerful and I enjoyed the scripting code - I used to create my .tex files in a fortran editor, because it would keep track of the parentheses. It has been more than twenty years since I used it.

RE: Technical Documents

XyWrite was a favorite for book writers

RE: Technical Documents

Word Processors and Publishing Software have different use cases and are good at different things.

While there is overlap in capabilities the choice is driven by the desired end product.

Given the vagueness of the original question.....

RE: Technical Documents

Thanks everyone for your input.

RE: Technical Documents


I am using Octave to do calculations, and I am printing out the results as LaTeX code. It's messy, but it becomes easy to change early parameters in a long set of calculations, and then redo everything. One does have to review one's conclusions. smile


RE: Technical Documents

Hopefully this isn't too late to be useful, but here are my experiences:
1) People use Word and use it poorly because they don't know any better. If your documents are 10 pages or longer, I would consider another system.
1a) If you're going to use Word or don't have a choice (budget), build a style manual and make certain every person editing those documents is doing it the same way.
1b) It seems that the best success with Word comes from using their Styles feature for formatting.

2) My company had used publishing software (Pagemaker), which has strength in organized, predictable formatting. The downside is editing is more tedious.

3) If your manuals have overlap in content (e.g. a common safety section or parts-ordering page, storage requirements, regulatory statement, etc) you might consider a structured authoring software. Structured authoring means you can build a document dynamically from a number of separately-saved chunks. This way if you update content in a chunk, all of the documents that use it will update upon re-opening. I dabbled in structured authoring software but not well enough to make a specific suggestion.

4) Hire or consult a technical writer to get your stuff converted and organized. Many companies dump documentation as a low priority in both resources and process control. This has a negative effect on every aspect of the product since customers won't use it as effectively and of course, blame the manufacturer when things don't go well.

It's been mentioned that operating manuals belong to this or that group within the company. They are all wrong - it requires a truly cross-functional team. Marketing needs to control depiction of the product and brand, Engineering needs to write the guts and make sure it is technically accurate, a technical writer needs to pare it down to simple, effective language, legal needs to address regulatory, contractual, and liability issues, etc.

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