RJ’s argument was that while mobile was the wave of the future, he felt that the Surface was not a mobile product. Since the Surface still ran full programs rather than streamlined apps, it really didn’t qualify as a mobile device, despite its tablet-like form. His argument was that the industry needs to learn to streamline code to make lighter programs for heavy duty use so that mobile can become more prolific.
My argument at the time, more or less, was that while I agreed with his thinking and supported more use of mobile, I didn’t think it was going to happen anytime soon because PCs enabled people to use more powerful programs that tablets just couldn’t handle. I supported the idea of cloud technology, which was just barely emerging at the time, but I knew it wasn’t there yet. Only when cloud technology could catch up, I contended, then we could start making a bigger move to mobile devices as our primary work tools.
Well, here we are, four years later. Have we made huge strides in moving more to mobile? Yes and no.
More tablet-like devices have been created in these four years, and the main leaders in this arena, Surface and iPad, have made improvements over the years. Surface has its standard version of the device, as well as a “Surface Pro” and “Surface Book”. iPad has developed its competition creating iPad Pro, but the various MacBooks continue to be the competition for the Surface Book.
Surface’s OS is still the same thing that runs on laptops, namely full versions of Windows 10. Windows 10 runs regular, full version programs, but it also runs on apps that can be bought through the Microsoft Store, including many cloud-based apps such as Microsoft Office 365. But, it’s still a really flat PC in a tablet format. People still use it like their PC, running more powerful programs in it, and use it as a laptop, just smaller. It’s certainly more portable than a standard laptop, but as laptop design gets thinner and thinner, it doesn’t make much of a difference. Additionally, the price tag on the Surface is still pretty high. To get a powerful enough machine that can create and edit video, you’d pay somewhere around US$3000.00+ for a Surface, when you could get something just as powerful in another brand of laptop for less than half that price (like I did for my current laptop).
iPads, in the meantime, have become more robust, and while still more dependent on cloud-based apps such as its own Work suite and it does run the cloud-based Office 365, other apps like Adobe’s Creative Cloud aren’t the same. There are Creative Cloud apps available for iPad, but they are still the watered down versions of them, and not the full versions that can be used on a laptop. Even though Adobe claims that Creative Cloud is cloud-based, it’s only cloud based insofar as it will save your work in iPad to your storage within Creative Cloud, but that’s about it. iPads have definitely been a frontrunner in promoting cloud-based storage, but running robust apps that are memory-intensive isn’t part of its anatomy.
Still, with these minimal advances, they are still steps forward in the right direction. For example, I do used Office 365 or iWork on my iPad when I help my son write up his homework assignments, and I can store them on my OneDrive or my iCloud. If he’s working on a bigger project, he can use PowerPoint or Keynote on my iPad, save it to OneDrive or iCloud, and then continue working on the project using my laptop or his desktop. Cloud-based storage, and some other cloud-based apps have definitely gotten better, for sure. I like this ability to switch from my laptop to my iPad to work on low-impact project, like doing my son’s homework.
It looks like the PC versus tablet/mobile wars will continue to rage on for a while. I don’t think they’ve gotten that far in four years, but the few improvements made have certainly been in the right direction. We’re not quite there yet. I think RJ’s original thought that all apps need to be streamlined for mobile use was a great observation then, and it’s still one that needs to apply now. If we are truly going to move towards the mobile age, bigger steps have to be made. These are steps forward, for sure. I think more has been concentrated on mobile phones, to be honest, since more people own them. And that seems appropriate. I don’t bring my iPad or my laptop with me everywhere, but I bring my phone everywhere. Then again, I’m not working on HTML code on my phone, so there has to be some sort of balance at some point.
Mobile devices are becoming more powerful all the time, but it looks like we’ll have to be a little more patient before we see another big leap with technology. I know there are some “big” announcements from Microsoft and Apple about these tablet products sometime this week, but I’m not holding out for any big advances, even though they are certainly overdue.
What do you think? How will this lack of technology development–or the future of mobile technology–help or hurt tech comm? Include your comments below.
I was re-reading an article I had posted on Facebook years ago, namely “More Companies Turning To Virtual Employees” found on the Huffington Post in early 2012, and saw that technical writers were among the top positions listed to be good remote positions and positions for independent contractors. Back then, I thought, “Great! Sign me up!”
Four years later upon re-reading this article, I was thinking, “Great! Sign me up!” However, I’m wondering if things have changed since that article has posted. The reason I ask is that I’ve been looking for those remote positions, and I’ll be damned if I can find one, or find one easily.
Now, keep in mind, I’ve had the opportunity to be a remote worker, and I did it for about three years. The small consulting gig I have after hours that’s an extension of that job is still done remotely. I know what it takes to be a successful remote worker.
So why is it so difficult to find these remote positions? When Marissa Meyer of Yahoo took away telecommuting privileges in 2013 (a year after the Huffington Post article), did it scare everyone else to do the same? I protested that move then, and I protest it now. I’ve seen many positions listed that could be done remotely, or mostly remotely (like an occasional visit to the office would be okay), but everyone insists that workers need to be in the office. I’m all for teamwork, yet I’ve been on several teams remotely without any problem.
I have a feeling that there are several misconceptions about remote working on the part of employers. Perceptions I have heard include:
Workers will get more done in the office workers who work remotely goof off and regard the time as their own.
Working from the office costs will be less expensive.
You can keep a closer eye on workers/micromanage when they are in the office.
There’s nothing like the social aspects of being in the office as part of a team.
Being in the office with your fellow co-workers will instill more teamwork, and more company loyalty, and more productivity. (This was an argument of Marissa Mayer.)
Rubbish, I tell you!
I have found from my own experience, and the experiences that others have told me, all these are not true. This is not to say there isn’t some truth to some of these preconceptions, but they are based on the worst in class workers instead of the best in class.
Here are the 6 reasons why employers should consider hiring more remote workers:
Remote workers actually put in more hours than office workers.
Since we don’t have to commute to the office, we often are starting work earlier and finishing work later. Good remote workers will usually have a home office so they can be removed from household distractions, and distractions are actually fewer than in an office setting. Even if we have to step away for a doctor’s appointment, pick up the kid from the bus stop, etc. we put in more quality time in those working hours. In most cases, we keep the same business hours, but are at our desk more than someone moving around the office.
Remote workers take on a good chunk of the operating costs.
Since we work from home most often, we pay for the space, electricity, heating/AC, and the internet connectivity. All the other potential costs, like a VOIP phone, network box or VPN, and a company computer would be the same as if you were at the office. In some cases, the remote worker uses a VPN connection, and it’s the cost of using their own computer or equipment being used. The employer doesn’t have to pay for the occupation of space at the office.
Good remote workers don’t need to be micromanaged.
Remote workers can keep themselves busy, and are more productive if they don’t have someone constantly looking over their shoulder. If details are important to an employer, remote workers have to deal with details to ensure that communications about projects are understood well as a result of being remote. They ask clarifying questions as needed. Just relax!
Social time isn’t going to get the work done.
Being a remote worker can be lonely sometimes, and some of the social aspects of working in an office can be missed. But thanks to social media tools, web conferencing, and good old email, being remote isn’t anti-social. Work, after all, isn’t about hanging out with your friends. Work is about getting a job done, and if you become friendly with your teammates, that’s great. I’ve seen plenty of situations where workers at the office socialize more than they actually work. You don’t have that problem with a remote worker.
Remote workers work harder to be a valuable member of the team than those in the office.
While there is some validity that face to face events help to foster teamwork, it’s not a must-have. Remote workers can feel out of the loop a little bit when there are small chats across cubicles that are missed out, but when phone meetings or web conferences are going on, remote workers will go out of their way to integrate and ensure that their contribution is at least on par with the office teammates and that the other teammates know that you are pulling your weight–sometimes more. This is especially true of global or cross-country teams that all meet remotely whether they are at the office or not. By being allowed to work independently as a remote worker, and by being allowed to work in a way that best suits that worker, this situation allows for more worker satisfaction, which can lead to more loyalty to the company, and further productivity.
Here’s a bonus for prospective employers–you don’t have to limit your search to a local commuting radius or pay for any relocation for the right remote worker.
The best person for the job might be 100, 1000, or more miles away, ready to adapt to time differences if needed, and ready to work!
Not everyone is cut out to do remote work. And yes, some jobs do require that you need to be in the office, or at least every now and then. But in this digital age when we can connect in so many ways, I don’t understand how this hasn’t taken off more. I have Skype, WebEx, AdobeConnect, and other web conferencing tools at my fingertips. I also have email, social media, and internet access. I have most of the standard tools such as Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Cloud on my laptop. What’s stopping me from getting another remote position? Oh yeah…it’s that I can’t find where they are, and they aren’t many of them out there.
What do you think? Should remote working or telecommuting be happening more? It was predicted that more people would be telecommuting by now, but I haven’t seen it happen yet. What are your experiences? Include your comments below.
Last week, my son celebrated his 14th birthday. He only wanted one present to mark the occasion, namely a gaming computer. Now, this is something that he’s been pining for months now. Originally, he wanted something in the $3000 range. Um, no. I wouldn’t even spend that much on myself, if I had the funds or the need. He only uses his computer for entertainment, whereas his dad and I use ours for both entertainment and business. Over the months, we told him that he had to get the price significantly down on the parts for the gaming machine he wanted to build, and eventually he figured out that he didn’t need the Bugatti (one of the fastest street cars out there) version of a machine, but a Ford Mustang level of speed was fine. Thanks to Ed Marsh of ContentContent, we found a place called MicroCenter that sold parts so that my son could build his new computer, and the sales guy helped us not only find all the parts, but also helped us find parts that were better and cheaper than some of the parts my son had chosen. As a result, before tax, my son’s new system cost $8 less than his budget. He was pleased.
My son and husband spent the weekend building the machine, and setting up the system. It’s still not perfect, as some of the components won’t work until he can upgrade his OS to Windows 10 next month, but it’s still an improvement over the machine he had. He’s thrilled with his new machine at this point. My husband and I felt that there were some good lessons learned with this birthday gift, which was that he learned to work within a budget, he learned teamwork as he built it with his dad’s help, he learned some patience (not much–he was anxious about it for a few months) in receiving it, and he gained some confidence that he actually knew what he was talking about when he’d talk to the sales guy. Perhaps this it the start to some career skills that will serve him later (he’s only in 8th grade right now).
Coincidentally, I got a new laptop myself. Unlike my son, I spent more money on it because I do use mine for business purposes quite heavily. Since I’m trying to move data from a Windows 7 machine to a Windows 8.1 machine…well, the transition hasn’t been so smooth. I’m doing it little bit by little bit. The Windows Easy Transfer was not cooperating in any way, no matter how I tried. Some things have ended up working out more easily, like having the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription to download programs to the new computer. Other ones…not so much. I’m still moving my own documents and content over as well, and there will need to be some tweaking done as well. It gives me a chance to clean up some of the data on my old computer so as not to mess up the new one too much.
During the process, I kept thinking, “Gee, what would someone who doesn’t have a lot of know-how about these systems do this process, if it’s like this for me?” Between my husband and I, who aren’t hardware/software experts, we still have a better clue than most people on how different software and systems work on a Windows computer, at least. Between us, we’ve been in the IT business in one form or another for 35+ years, so you’d think that we’d have some idea of how this stuff works.
This all lead to me thinking about the technical abilities of my family. My paternal grandfather, who lacked a formal education, was someone who should have been an electrical engineer based on his work and hobbies. He was a natural at that stuff. My brother inherited that mind too, as he is an architect. I was the other “tech” in the family. My father in law is a mechanical engineer, and my husband’s undergraduate degree is in mechanical engineering, even though he is a computer and web developer now. So I supposed it was inevitable that it would be part of my son’s genetic code (get it, code?). 😉
I started thinking about it more deeply in terms of how this technical ability has helped my own career, and how it has related to technical writing and technical communication. After all, “technical” is the big modifier when describing these professions. How many of us are actually “technical” in what we do? We probably need to better define “technical” first. Do we mean that we understand the finer details or writing or related work (like web design, etc.) that we can be more “technical” than the average person? Or do we mean that we understand and work with technical content, which requires a higher level of knowledge on less than average topics? In my mind, it’s both. You could be one or the other easily, but probably the best technical communicators are a bit of both.
Is this something we take for granted? Perhaps we do. That’s something that we should change, and I think there’s been a movement within the technical communications field to embrace that. We have a special set of skills that many people don’t have. Many can write, and many can be technical, but not many can be both. You have been gifted with “The Force”, so to speak, so it’s your responsibility to use it for good like a Jedi Knight, and not turn to the Dark Side.
As of TODAY, Adobe is releasing five new tools for technical communication professionals everywhere! Technical Communication Suite 5.0 (TCS5), FrameMaker 12 (FM12), FrameMaker XML Author 12 (FMXA 12) and RoboHelp 11 (RH11), and FrameMaker Publishing Server 12 (FMPS12) are now available.It’s been about eighteen months or so since the last big Adobe tech comm release, so you can imagine there are some new and enhanced features included.
I was privileged to be among a group of tech comm professionals who were invited to get a preview of the products before their release, and I have to say, there were so many new and improved features that it was difficult to squeeze all the information into one press conference! But I’m going to give you the highlights, and I’m sure you’re going to find that there’s something new for you.
In the last release of TCS, namely TCS4, there were several big overhauls of the product, namely that the Technical Communications Suite concentrated on providing tools that supported structured authoring, integrated interactive content, and could support the creation of content for mobile devices while providing searchable, personalized, socially enabled content in a way that would yield bigger results with less resources. It was a major step to enhance these tools, especially in regards to adding mobile and interactive abilities to content. Adobe has continued to build on those major changes with the new features in version 5.0.
The foundation of the Tech Comm Suite has always been FrameMaker and RoboHelp. With the release of TCS5, FrameMaker 12 and RoboHelp 11 have been released with big enhancements that appear to concentrate on making these tools more user-friendly and efficient for the technical writers using them.
For FM12, the first obvious enhancement is the interface. Adobe has improved the user interface to include colored icons and larger icons that look cleaner and sharper in HD. If you like things “old school” in the original smaller, monochromatic colors, that choice is still available as well. There is also more flexibility in customizing your interface. A new “pod” allows the user to access all the currently opened files in one place, from which you can save and close multiple files at one time, while still viewing the unsaved files. There are also enhanced abilities to drag-and-drop to empty areas of the interface, close pods or panels more easily, double-click on empty areas to minimize or expand pods, and searching capabilities have been expanded. These seem like minor details, but when using a product as often as many technical writers use FrameMaker, these finer details can make a big difference! FM12 includes three samples of unstructured content and one DITA-based content sample with the product.
FM12 is not all about a new façade. Adobe has enriched the authoring process with new capabilities. The first thing that caught my attention is that FM12 can generate QR codes now! They can be created for URLs, SMS texts, emails, or to initiate phone calls. QR codes are taking over these days, so it’s great that these can be both created and integrated into FM documentation. Background color enhancements allow uniform height background color and options to specify paragraph boxes. The addition of a new customer-requested feature is the support regular expression coding.
Single-sourcing has been a hot topic in the last few years, and this has been addressed with new enhancements. FM12 gives users a new way to work with conditional text, by using a new conditional tag pod which provides check-box mechanisms with multiple conditions to allow the user to do more complex filtering with conditional text enhancements. It truly simplifies the entire process, that even a newbie should be able to figure it out easily.
Productivity enhancements have also been included in FM12. A searchable smart catalog function allows the user to filter choices based on the valid choices available and phrase typed by the user, while the user can continue to use the keyboard shortcuts as before. There is also a new capability to open all files from the user’s last session in one click, including the last documents and pages in focus, workspaces such as pods, panels and palettes, among others.
Adobe has also taken care to add great collaboration enhancements in FrameMaker. Native connections to any webdev content management system (CMS), such as Documentum, SharePoint, and Adobe CQ are available. Users can now view entire CMS tree layouts, and can access several key CMS functions, such as checking out documents, editing documents, and searching within document, all from FM12. PDF review commenting has been made more flexible. The most proactive steps towards subject matter expert (SME) reviews is that reviews can be done on PDF reader apps on mobile devices, and can also be used on those same devices using cloud technology such as Dropbox for both internal and external reviewers. As mobile devices become more commonplace replacing desktops and laptops, this is a great step forward!
Publishing abilities have gotten a boost on FrameMaker as well. It used to be that if you wanted to create certain types of digital output, such a ePUBs, for FrameMaker content, you would have to export it to RoboHelp, and have RoboHelp publish the document. Now, that step is no longer needed for PDFs, Webhelp, ePUBs, Kindle docs, Microsoft HTML Help, responsive HTML5, or Web help! That’s a big deal, as it allows FM12 to be more efficient by skipping that step of exporting and publishing in RoboHelp. Publishing can also be done through the Web now, too, for multiple users using a FrameMaker server, allowing multiple users to publish simultaneously and automatically to multiple channels and devices. That’s a practical efficiency improvement right there!
With this release, Adobe is introducing a new FrameMaker product for those who don’t need the full version of FM12, but are mostly concerned in having a tool to do structured XML authoring. FrameMaker XML Author is a tool that has been created especially for the structured XML market. Those wanting to use unstructured content will still need to use the full FM12 version. The XML Author is fully standards-compliant for content creation, and supports the most popular XML technology for single-sourcing. It is not FM12 “lite”, but it is a streamlined, easy-to-use version that supports structured authoring without the bulk of the FM12 features that aren’t needed for structured content, yet still integrate-able with the full version of FM12 and available at a lower price. I’m sure that having this tool will be highly beneficial to many companies who are looking for a way to cut costs (it is priced at 40% the price of FM12 “full”) while still reaping the benefits of having a powerful XML authoring tool.
Another customer request that has been granted by Adobe is the integration of MathML, to allow MathML equations to be imported, created, edited, and published with FrameMaker. Adobe is even including 30-day trials of MathFlow (MathML editor from Design Science) with the shipment of FM12 for those who are interested in trying it out. There are several other features that are also included, along with 55 bug fixes, improved performance and launch time for FrameMaker, but I’d end up writing a book at this point!
Of course, with all these big changes to FrameMaker, we can’t forget RoboHelp 11, which also has had a big overhaul.
RH11, like FM12, has a new UI look as well. Based on customer feedback, RH11 has a new color scheme and a more modern interface that looks more pleasing to the eye. It’s a step in the right direction. Adobe has said that further UI improvements are in the works, but this current new UI is the first step in a long overdue makeover for the interface.
The more important feature enhancements with this new release of RoboHelp include advances with HTML5 publishing, printed document enhancements, and collaboration and single-sourcing enhancements.
The HTML5 publishing enhancements are from the perspective that mobile publishing is central, so new single responsive layouts for all devices are available “right out of the box” when downloading RH11. This new single layout feature will work seamlessly across all devices, can be easily customized, will allow for real-time previewing based on the browser size, and can be published with one click. There is a new wizard-based layout editor available to help with this process that shows the added responsive HTML5 output options. You can also preview layouts, and the customization is great because no coding in CSS needs to be done, as you can use the editor instead. To me, this is true single-sourcing creation at its best while simplifying the process! This is a big deal!
Printed documents have not been ignored. Users can now customize headers and footers of printed documents by defining them in the master pages. Headers and footers can also be imported from Word. There is also the ability to specify different headers and footers for the cover, and even and odd pages for different sections of a document. This is great for consistency within branded documentation.
In terms of collaboration and single-source improvements, cloud integration and topic sharing for SMEs has now been included. RH11 now includes a Resource Manager tool that synchronizes folders using Dropbox, Google Drive, or Microsoft SkyDrive as shared locations, and includes filtering for specific folders. This allows the user to manage linked resources within files used in real time across projects and geography.
The Technical Communication Suite 5.0 includes FrameMaker 12 and RoboHelp 11, but it also includes the updated products of Acrobat Pro XI, Captivate 7, and Presenter 9 to complete the Suite. You will notice that Illustrator, which was included in the TCS4 version, is not included. This was a step, Adobe said, to help lower the price. Additionally, from the way I see it, it makes sense, because both Illustrator and Photoshop–another product that used to be included in prior TCS versions–are now affordably available as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. I know that I personally have a CC subscription, and I’m guessing that many active technical communicators do too, so this saves us from spending twice for the same product, which makes a lot of sense. TCS5, FM12, RH11, FM XML Author, and the FMPS12 will also be available both as a subscription and through perpetual license as well. There is separate pricing for the FM XML Author and FM Publishing Server software.
The updates made to FrameMaker and RoboHelp are extensive, as there are many more features, but I think you get the idea. Adobe is taking steps to try to stay on top of technological changes that have taken root in the past couple of years, such as mobile and cloud technology, and is working to continue to make a more robust and user-friendly products for technical communicators.
My recommendation is that if you are looking to try TCS5 or any of the TC products out, or are interested in upgrading your current TCS package or individual products, click on the Adobe advertisement in the upper right corner of this page, or visit Adobe’s TCS product page for more information.
After my recent run-in with scammers, I’ve now come to better appreciate cloud computing and everything that is has to offer. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate it before, but in having to restore several items and back up others very recently, I was glad that I had several cloud storage accounts set up, and that much of my software could be restored easily because I had downloaded them from cloud accounts. Some of the programs on my laptop which I didn’t worry about included most of my Adobe software. Why? Most of the programs I use were downloaded through the Creative Cloud 6 subscription I have. I’m glad I made that move, instead of getting the disks. Not that the disks would be bad–they would do the job too, but at least I’d have the latest and greatest on my system, no matter what.
Well, I was just reading on Twitter from @saibalb79, @maxwellhoffmann and @AdobeTCS that the Adobe Technical Communications Suite 4 is cloud-bound! I think that’s awesome, really, and rather forward thinking. It supports mobile initiatives for some computers, like the impending Microsoft Surface, to be able to access the information more easily, but also for the rest of us as well. It appears that the subscription is offered either monthly at US$99.00 per month, or when signing up for a one-year plan, it would be US$69.00 per month. That seems like a pretty good deal if you ask me! Since I already have a copy of TCS4, I won’t need to subscribe for a while, but for those who have not upgraded yet, this seems like a great opportunity.
I think what’s also great about this is the fact that it works well with the idea of using Creative Cloud 6 apps in conjunction with the apps in TCS4. Imagine…always being up-to-date because you have subscriptions. I know that Microsoft is starting to promote this concept more as well, but knowing that Adobe is trying to stay on the cutting edge and keep up with technological needs and taking advantage of the cloud more and more is rather proactive thinking, in my opinion.
You can find out more by checking out Adobe’s website at this link: adobe.ly/Qp18q9.
Now tell me, do Flare or Doc-To-Help, or any of those other tech comm software suites offer cloud services like this? Let me know if I’m missing something…I’ll gladly present those to my tech comm readers as well, but I haven’t heard anything as of yet…