Microsoft Word 2010 for Technical Manuals
I’m in the process of slowly updating a technical manual; it’s currently in Microsoft Word, and was created by merging several earlier manuals.Â The manual is over 200 pages long, and contains many photos, illustrations, and tables.
And I’m ready to dump Word.Â I’ve used Word before, starting with Word 95, to write tech manuals but I’ve taken a lengthy break from tech writing.
I’m not a fan of the ribbon interface.Â It’s like Apple stuff — it works great if you think as the designers do, but doesn’t work well if you think differently.Â All those big icons and such make the supposedly more common stuff easier to find, but it makes the other features harder to find.Â The ribbon interface makes it harder to explore and find out all of a program’s capabilities compared to browsing through menus.
I don’t like the current Word
Q&A help system, either.Â OK, I may be an old curmudgeon, since I haven’t like Word’s help since Word 95 — I think that was the last version that really tried to explain the basic concepts such as styles.
In my experience, Word can work pretty well if you start from scratch and lay out everything first, such as your styles.Â If you have a Word document with inconsistent styles, lots of manual formatting, etc, and you’re trying to substantially modify its structure and appearance, watch out.
My current document’s problems include styles automatically changing when I try to apply them (and then changing the formatting of all the text tagged with that style to something I don’t like), tables flying apart or flipping when I delete some text or an object, and such.Â I’ve quickly grown tired of re-doing the same thing over and over, so Word is out for lengthy technical documents.