Technical Writing Tool Chains

I enjoy working as a Linux admin. Yet part of me yearns to return to the technical writing field. Sadly, browsing job and contract postings leave me feeling empty. Almost all such jobs and contracts are rooted in a Windows tool chain rather than embracing an operating system agnostic foundation.

The common cornerstones of this Windows tool chain foundation?

  1. Microsoft Word
  2. Microsoft Excel
  3. Microsoft PowerPoint
  4. Microsoft Visio
  5. Microsoft Outlook
  6. Adobe Acrobat
  7. Adobe Illustrator
  8. Adobe Photoshop
  9. Adobe InDesign

Alternatives and additional tools include:

  1. FrameMaker
  2. MadCap Flare
  3. oXygen
  4. Autodesk AutoCAD
  5. SnagIt

A smidgen of postings include requests for DITA/XML experience, which by design is operating system agnostic. Yet most of the time one or more of the previous software tools are listed as job requirements.

Other common tools include Sharepoint, Confluence, and Jira.

Don’t ignore tools such as Slack, Skype, Zoom, or Teams. So much for privacy.

These observations are discouraging, especially for somebody who has used free/libre software for almost twenty years and exclusively for more than a decade and has not used Windows in any meaningful manner during the same period.

I don’t like Windows. Sitting in front of Windows, dealing with forced updates, the ribbon interface, proprietary mindsets, and closed source software code starts a Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde transformation.

Can a free/libre operating system agnostic tool chain be used in the technical writing field?

Much of free/libre software is stable and robust — but also needs polish. This entire blog targets that lack of polish. Does that lack of polish forbid using a free/libre tool chain?

How many experienced professional tech writers would or could adapt to such a tool chain? Would they accept and tolerate the warts and blemishes often found in free/libre software?

What would a free/libre technical writing tool chain look like?

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: Tech Writing

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