I always find it interesting to see what stories people end up gravitating to each year on TechCommGeekMom, and along with other year-end summaries, I like to figure out what were the most popular blog posts for a given year. Sometimes, it’s something that’s archived from an earlier year. That’s good, because I try to write or post things that will have long-term relevance as often as possible. However, I’m usually interested in what was written THIS year that came out to be the most popular of all original information posted that wasn’t an archived post or a curated topic posted.
What’s interesting to observe from a statistical perspective is that the top three almost tied for first place–#1 has one more view than the next two, which are tied.
I’m also pleased to see that most of my most popular posts this year were ones that came from the heart, based on personal experiences or observations. I’ve often argued that social media is a medium in which people discussed things and could more closely relate to each other because there is the ability to have more personal experiences and have the opportunity to connect and respond. The fact that many of these top blog posts relating to my job woes, trying to provide DIY training for myself, and trying to take positive steps towards the continual advancing of my career are relatable topics–that I’m not the only one going through these feelings and experiences. I almost always try to open up conversations with my blogs–for better or worse–and the reflection of the top original posts for 2015 reflect that.
The last one I listed was something personal that I wanted to include. This showed a big part of my weight loss and self-improvement journey I’m on right now. I’m still on that journey, having made a bold move in the last few weeks (something that I may write about soon, but not yet). I was glad to see that truly personal topics matters, and that even when relating it to something in technical communications, people responded positively towards it. My weight loss journey is a deeply personal one, and something that I don’t have to share, but I do, simply because I think all of us can relate to a non-tech comm struggle like that easily.
What will 2016 bring? Stay tuned…plans, resolutions, and predictions coming soon!
You might have heard by now that there have been some updates to the Adobe Technical Communications Suite (TCS) that were released today! Both Framemaker and Robohelp have been updated significantly, while the other programs (Captivate, Acrobat, and Presenter), have had some ongoing updates as well.
Adobe held two virtual press conferences in early May 2015 to let insiders learn about these latest and greatest releases for updating Framemaker and Robohelp. I’ll start with Framemaker in this post, and post about Robohelp in a post coming soon.
The biggest take-away that I took from the Framemaker press conference was that Adobe has worked to make the application more user-friendly so little or no coding is needed, even though access to code is still available, and that efforts are continuing to push forward to make more global and mobile outputs available.
The latest version of Framemaker will be titled Framemaker (FM) 2015. The reason for this is that way, all the versions within TCS will be in synch based on the year that the version was released. So, Robohelp (RH) and the other applications will also be known by the 2015 label for this release. It makes sense, and easier to track than version 10, 11, etc. for different products.
The presentation was given by Kapil Verma, who is the Group Marketing and Product Manager for the Adobe Tech Comm line of products.
Kapil reminded us that in the last four years, there have been a lot of advances in FM, including DITA support, multichannel publishing, mobile publishing, CMS connector API, multiview XML authoring, AEM connector, native multi-channel device publishing, FM XML author, MathML, Enhanced collaboration w/mobile and cloud based tech, and other productivity boosters. So, while a lot of upgrades and enhancements have happened in that short amount of time, further enhancements found in this update are sure to make technical writers rather happy.
What’s new in FM 2015? There are six main points that were given, and while Kapil did a “deep-dive” into each of these highlights, I’m going to be giving you the highlights of those points.
Framemaker 2015 will allow you to work faster and smarter with several core feature enhancements.
Working with tables is much easier and faster now. You can conditionalize columns and rows (formerly only on rows) now, and there are usability improvements to allow arrow keys to navigate cells, tab to insert rows, and drag-drop rows and columns. There are several new table styles available out of the box. When demonstrated it, looked REALLY easy, very clear, and highly flexible.
FM writers can now more easily work with conditional text–including applying it at the book level–due to visual indications of conditions applied on tables and graphic objects. Again, when Kapil demonstrated it, it was very clear where color coding was applied so the writer could more clearly see the associations of what conditional text applied in different areas, making it much easier to make appropriate changes and see the changes.
You can now generated a “mini” Table of Contents (TOC) in the middle of a document, simply by placing the TOC where you want, then easily modifying it and styling it the way you want!
Enhanced Word import provides more options and control, with the ability to map styles for paragraphs, characters and tables while retaining Word formatting for matched styles or inline Word formatting overrides.
Serve a global audience with new right to left language support.
Arabic and Hebrew are now included and supported in FM 2015! There is also leveraged support for Right-to-Left (RTL) languages and the ability to create bi-directional documents. This support for bi-directional content means that you can have both RTL and LTR (Left-to-Right) in the same document–you don’t have to choose one or the other. You can have just about any combination of languages in a document now!
New object direction properties for document and object such as paragraphs, tables, text flows etc. can be inherited from the direction imported from Word, whether it’s LTR, RTL, or both. You can leverage the direction inheritance model to enable 1-click flip of all objects.
You can publish your RTL content into multiple formats including Acrobat, HTML5, HTML, ePub, Kindle, iOS, Android, and Webhelp.
Publish for mobile devices–including mobile apps–natively.
FM 2015 has a brand new HTML5 layout with several enhancements, including topic descriptions and breadcrumbs, with the ability to show search results on the left panel for easier navigation. HTML5 layout comes with host of customization abilities including the easy “off/on” functions in which you can choose the component to customize, then view and customize the component properties in a visual/tabular format, allowing writers to achieve frameless outputs.
Writers will now be able to publish natively mobile apps using Framemaker that are iOS and Android supported, using PhoneGap:Build, which is an Adobe product. PhoneGap is available for a single app generation for free, while creating multiple apps requires a PhoneGap/CS subscription. The way it works is that once the app is created, it creates a QR code so that a user can scan and download the app, or save the info to your local drive. The content itself can be published to Google Store or iTunes.
Personalized content can be delivered dynamically to your end users.
Dynamic content filters are provided in the navigation for the end users to allow them what to see what they want to see. The creation of how to do this reminded me of how taxonomy tags are used in Adobe’s AEM to filter content for readers. This can be done by enabling the dynamic filter in the output, then creating and customizing with the conditional tags used in the content for the end user filter. The Dynamic Content Filter applies to all content, meaning the main content as well as TOC, topics, and search results. Existing tags can be re-used, based on existing conditional tags/expressions functionality.
Generate high fidelity ePub outputs by embedding your custom fonts.
XML authoring is easier now for SMEs/Contributors.
There was the realization that the current XML authoring workflow in FM 12 has been too complex for SMEs and other “casual contributors”, so a simplified XML authoring environment was created. This new XML Authoring environment is ideal for SMEs, Casual contributors, and even technical writers who are new to XML/DITA, as it was created for those who have not been exposed to XML, allowing them to work with common objects rather than elements that will always produce valid XML. The input for these users looks like a form, which is easier for most anyone to figure out. You can create a free form authoring form, or a guided authoring form where you ask for specific info. (This looked really good, because I could see some benefits for this for a project that I’ve been working on.) This simplified form-like environment allows the end user to enter various types of content quite easily, with a simplified menu and tool bar, an enhanced quick element toolbar which mimics many of the same features as an MS Word text editing toolbar. A DITA toolbar is also provided out of the box, as well as a BYOT (build your own toolbar) feature for your custom application.
MathML has been enhanced so you can easily do in-line MathML equations through MathFlow Editor, pick up paragraphs properties so that the equation merges well with the surrounding text, and high quality, searchable vector (EPS) output as opposed to raster (PNG) in FM12.
A new connector with DITA Exchange by Content Technologies will be shared natively with FM 2015. An enhanced FM-SharePoint connector with claim-based authentication support and support for SharePoint 2013 is also available.
Enjoy a rock solid product with improved usability and performance.
To improve usability and performance, Adobe addressed many bugs from its prior release of FM. In fact, more than 90 bugs were corrected in this release!
UI enhancements include the ability to resize dialogs (both TOC, Add/edit and show/hide conditions, x-ref, conref, link-ref), conditional text checkbox behavior mentioned above, and no grey areas when you reduce pod width.
Performance enhancements include EDD update performance improvements (same operation has been reduced from hours to minutes!), a smart pod refresh, the FM-Adobe Experience Manager connector has improved performance with multi-threading support), and contextual in-product tips as needed are now included.
As mentioned earlier, this will be part of TCS 2015, which will include the 2015 versions of Framemaker, RoboHelp, Captivate, Acrobat, and Presenter. Buying it as the Tech Comm Suite is a 57% discount from buying buying each of these separately, and you can use these in an end-to-end workflow, so it’s worth getting the entire package!
Pricing & Availability on June 2 (in USD):
Upgrade from last release
Upgrade from 2 releases
FM 12 :$399
FM 11: $599
English, French, German, and Japanese
FrameMaker 2015 XML Author
English, French, German, Japanese
FrameMaker 2015 Publishing Server
FMPS 12: $5999
FMPS 11: $8999
RH 11: $399
RH 10: $599
English, French, German, Japanese
Technical Communications Suite 2015
TCS 4, 3, 2 or 1: $1199
English, French, German, Japanese
Overall, as the main foundation product of Technical Communications Suite, Framemaker 2015 looks to be a significant update that will help provide technical writers with the user-friendly, flexible tools needed to truly create the best content possible for their end-users that serve their ever-growing global and mobile needs.
Oh, and there’s a FREE webinar on June 16th, 2015 to launch the product. If you would like to attend that, register on the Adobe Online Event site. The event runs from 11:00 AM-1:00 PM Eastern Time.
Now that it’s the start of the new year, it’s time to make some resolutions–or at least set some goals. While I’ll be continuing my eternal quest to lose weight, it also means it’s time to start seriously thinking about what I need to do professionally in the coming year. Since I now know my contract has an end date, I need to figure out a plan. I’ve given presentations on the subject of how to get a tech comm job these days, and I know I’ve had to go back and follow my own advice. One of my big pieces of advice has been to learn something that can help you gain a new skill, or update an old one. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Lynda.com course refreshing your InDesign skills or learning Framemaker, or learning more about…well, anything that can help you find a job as technology advancements continue to speed by us.
During the last few weeks, I’ve started to look and see what kind of jobs are available, and think about tech comm trends to help me figure out what my next move might be. It’s different for each person, obviously, based on interests and skills, but learning something new can’t hurt, that’s for sure. I’m a person who believes I always have something to learn, and heaven knows, even after a Masters degree and some experience under my belt now, I feel I still have a LOT to learn still.
I still don’t have a clear path as to what I’ll be doing when my contract ends, but I think I’ve figured out something that will hopefully provide either some direction, or at least provide me with some new skills that will help me somehow.
One of the biggest trends I’ve continually heard about in the last year is that content marketing is the big thing that content strategists need to be pursuing. I have a strong background in customer/client services, so I have a good understanding of the importance of post-purchase content for goods and services. The perspective needed to create content for content marketing is something I have–it’s rather logical for me, really. And I’ve seen more content marketing jobs listed in my area…which is good. Well, almost good. It’s not good because in the end, I don’t have any real marketing background. There are a few skills that I sorely lack. I understand what some of these skills involve, but not enough to truly say I have enough experience to apply for a position.
So, after researching several options and having several conversations with my husband about it, I decided to register for a mini-MBA program in digital marketing that starts at the end of this month (January 2015). The curriculum includes sessions covering several topics that were in my personal checklist of subjects I wanted to learn to get ahead, and the structure of a 12-week online program from an accredited school meets my learning needs (personalized e-learning!). I sent in my registration form online tonight, and I’m probably going to get a phone call for the program to get further details to become fully registered, but the first step has been taken.
So, this is how I’m investing in myself to better my chances in finding a position when my current contract ends. The program ends around the same time as my contract, so the timing couldn’t be better. I haven’t decided if and how I will still break out on my own after the contract, but I figure whether I become an independent contractor or get a full-time job, these new digital marketing skills will come in handy either way.
I’ve taken a step forward. It’s always that first step that’s the hardest to take, but it had to be made. I’m sure there will be a few more first steps in whatever this new direction will be, and I’ll be sure to report them. But it’s that very first one that can be the most difficult. It’s now been made. I’ve got support in my decision at home, so that helps immensely. Time will tell if it’s a correct decision. I think it is. I’ve got nothing to lose but time and money, and a lot to gain with new information to learn. It’s an opportunity to diminish my chances of being a pudding brain.
I apologize for my blog coverage of the 2014 STC Summit edition of Adobe Day being delayed–it’s been a busy month! But hopefully, you’ll feel it’s been worth the wait, and you had a chance to see my live Twitter feed as it happened.
The STC’14 Adobe Day felt a little bit different this year. One of the things I noticed was that as much as Adobe says that these Adobe Day events are Adobe-product free, lately, they haven’t been. HOWEVER, they are still not one big, in-person infomercial either. Adobe products are not brought up much, but if they are, it’s to show that they can be tools to use to create solutions to common tech comm issues. So, it might be an inadvertant infomercial in that respect, but it’s not done in a blatant way that screams, “YOU NEED TO BUY ME!!!!!! PLEASE BUY OUR PRODUCTS!!!” Adobe continues to do a good job in showing what tech comm issues are out there, and as leaders in the software field, they are tuned into these issues and are creating products that benefit the technical communicator. I think that’s fair enough. The talks, overall, were broader topics that in some instances used Adobe Tech Comm Suite tools to provide solutions. And you have to remember, while these talks are aimed to be product-free for the most part, it’d probably look pretty bad if you had someone declaring all the glories of a competitive product when Adobe is hosting the event. Y’know?
With that out of the way, I observed some other things that made this a little bit different. First, there were fewer speakers this year. I felt that was a good thing, because in the past with more speakers, each speaker would be racing to get his/her presentation completed in a very short amount of time, and there would be little time for questions or discussion. Since there were fewer speakers this year, each one could elaborate more on their topic, which allowed for more time for questions and discussion. More networking time during the breaks was also a benefit from having less speakers.
The other difference I saw dealt with the speakers themselves. While they were all familiar, established voices in the tech comm world, it wasn’t the same crowd that one usually sees at Adobe Day events. All of them have participated in Adobe events or other tech comm events before, but in the past, it usually is most of the same speakers up on the podium. While I like all the “usual suspects” very much, and consider them my mentors and have become friends with several of them, seeing these new “players” was actually refreshing to me. I hope that Adobe continues to change up the speaker lineups with future Adobe Days, as all the speakers I’ve heard have a clear voice that’s worth listening to, and hearing as many of those voices as possible provides both variety and fresh perspectives going forward. As I go through each presentation in forthcoming blog posts, hopefully you’ll see what I mean.
But as tradition in this blog dictates, I always start with the panel that capped off the Adobe Day event. I find that these panel talks bring an umbrella perspective to where we are as a profession through several points of view, and seeing where there are agreements and disagreements in the issues at hand.
Matt started with the point that tech comm is more than tech writing now, so what do we need to improve short-term and long-term? Kevin responded first, saying that we need to do more with less on smaller displays and adapting the content appropriately for mobile. Marcia added to that, saying that using less can mean writing tighter as well. (She has a technique she taught during the STC Summit, in fact!) Joe agreed with Marcia, adding that technical communicators need to put in the time to make concise content meaningful, and to look at simplified English as part of that objective. Bernard felt that attending workshops and demonstrations were important, because technical communicators need to continually learn and adapt in this industry! He added that SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) should contribute to content, but technical communicators should control it. Kevin also agreed with Bernard, saying that SMEs are writing content more often now, so teaching them to write tighter will help. Marcia chimed in that many people are now being required to write, but don’t have the skills. We need to help with that.
Moving onto topics about how technology affects technical communication, Kevin said that new technology, like Google Glass and other wearables, is emerging, and we need to understand how these work. Joe pointed out that the Pebble watch now is starting to have user docs now, and more will be emerging. Bernard added that gesture based technology similar to the Xbox Kinect will need documentation.
Matt then asked, “What should we look forward to in the next five years?” Bernard felt that less specialization will be needed so that the right people write the right content, such as an engineer who can write. Specialized writing will be very important. Joe added that we need to agree on taxonomy and terminology, and use style sheets more often for consistency. Marcia believed that topic-based writing will be emerging more as a growth area. Kevin explained that in e-learning, there is a need to develop learning for new devices that responds to user displays, thus accomodating multiple screens.
The next question asked about how to help educate and help with adapting certain generations adjust between print and digital writing/designing. The consenus was that we just need to adapt. The panel encouraged the audience to get to know your UX/UI people, as they will help you learn to adapt, especially if you aren’t as tech-adaptive.
The last question centered on customers customizing their content–is this a trend? Bernard leapt into a response with, “GOOD! DO IT!” He encouraged us to help customers to start doing personalized help, or personalizing any information, for that matter! Moderator Matt closed by saying that rich media that engages users is going to be about content strategy, but it will also be about content marketing. The group agreed that personalized, concise information going forward will be best!
And that was it! The session went by quickly, but as you can see, there was a lot of great information that many technical communicators can take and use going forward in their own work. While it might take some time to adapt, sure enough, it will bring the field forward as technology and the way we access it moves ahead.
Coming soon: The individual presentations at Adobe Day #STC14 Edition!
With each big conference that I attend, I always look forward to Adobe Day, and Adobe Day at the 2014 STC Summit is no exception. You’ve probably read my past posts about Adobe Day from other conferences, so you know how rich in information they are. I’ve learned an enormous amount of information FOR FREE that would otherwise cost thousands of dollars from the leading experts in the field. It’s hard to find that anywhere else.
On Sunday morning, May 18th, 2014, Adobe is once again putting together a stellar group of technical communications luminaries to set our imaginations on fire! This year’s theme appears to be, “Vision 2020: The Demanding Job of a Technical Communicator.” Based on the descriptions of each speaker’s talk during this morning session, each will be providing advice and tools–free of any product promotion–that can help make our demanding jobs easier and more productive. I’ve heard all the speakers before in one way or another, and I can tell you that all of them are top rate. Most of them have spoken at previous Adobe Day events, and they are invited back time and time again because they have valuable information to share.
Kapil Verma of Adobe will be speaking about who he thinks are today’s technical communicators (hint: there’s more than one type!). Marcia Riefer Johnston will be talking about single-sourcing techniques she used to save her company USD$16,000! I’ve taken Marcia’s writing workshop and read her book, so I can tell you she have some marvelous tips. Kevin Siegel will be talking about how to combine something I love–e-learning–with technical documentation to make the documentation more dynamic and valuable! I’m looking forward to that. Bernard Aschwanden–the STC’s newly elected vice-president–will be speaking about using content strategy to help promote revenue growth. And last, but not least, a panel including all the speakers plus Tom Aldous of Acrolinx, moderated by Matt Sullivan, looks like it will be quite the lively talk.
Did I mention that breakfast, snacks, and lunch are included, too? And it’s FREE?
I know–you are saying, “Great! I want to go! I don’t want to miss out on this!” Great! But you do have to register so that Adobe knows you are coming! Make sure you register by 11:59 PM PDT on May 16th, because you don’t want to miss out!