Words and Software

Technical writing for Windows 10. (old: Intelligent Systems Service, Data Protection Manager, and Operations Manager)

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  • Blog Post: Microsoft language, in a cloud

    This is only tangentially related to technical writing, but a post by Matthew Stibbe brought to my attention an interesting analysis of Microsoft language over the years. It's an interactive tag cloud , covering 1976 to 2006, on Todd Bishop's Microsoft Blog . I dragged the slider back and forth for awhile...
  • Blog Post: Bullfighter for writing

    Matthew Stibbe's review of the Bullfighter add-on for Word and PowerPoint intrigued me enough to try it. It's a quick and easy install that adds a toolbar to the applications. I decided to test it against my most recent doc, What's New in Data Protection Manager SP1 . (If you're participating in the...
  • Blog Post: Web vs. print challenges

    If you took a look at the DPM 2007 Operations Guide during the beta, you might have noticed that the server chapters have a similar organization: general maintenance management data recovery And within those sections are parallel topics, such as: renaming the server applying OS...
  • Blog Post: IT pros - how do you use worksheets

    If you've ever used any product documentation that included worksheets , checklists , or other job aids , I'd appreciate your input on two questions. How do you actually use those job aids? And how would you like to be able to use them? For example... I just read them online I print them out...
  • Blog Post: Process flows and content design

    Yesterday I sat in with some folks working on the next version of SMS to observe their approach to process flow and documentation. (I don't want to be leaking feature information that might not be ready for public release yet, so I'm going to use the fictional "verning" instead.) The key players were...
  • Blog Post: How to add RAM to a laptop

    Over the years, I think I've replaced just about everything inside my desktops except the motherboard. But I've never even peeked inside my laptop. Somehow I absorbed the edict that only "authorized technicians" could touch one. I had this extra memory though. And a great set of instructions . This...
  • Blog Post: Operations Manager: what do you need to know to use it?

    This is actually an open question to you all. :) It's common for us to say our audience is the IT pro. But "IT pro" is a lazy shortcut to refer to a wide variety of people and positions. Does every IT pro know how to configure and manage permissions for SQL Server databases? Not necessarily, but the...
  • Blog Post: From list to diagram: modeling workflow

    This week's lesson in the managing content projects class was on modeling workflows. Quite timely too, since I had offered to diagram a process for writing chapters that I hadn't gotten around to doing. It was a fun exercise. We started by writing out a list of the steps in a process. I began scribbling...
  • Blog Post: Looks like a file synchronization solution (Windows XP)

    Tristank mentioned a Powertoy that sounded interesting, SyncToy for Windows XP . (An aside...I think it's odd that back when hard drive space was limited and expensive, I'd download anything that caught my interest...and now that I have lots of inexpensive storage space, I'm much more particular....
  • Blog Post: How not to write a user manual

    I have to disagree with Tony Soper's admiration for the Pong user instructions: "Insert quarter Ball will automatically serve Avoid missing ball for high score" Tony and I worked together on the same team, so he's used to my contrariness. :-) I don't object to calling Pong's instructions...
  • Blog Post: Metrics for content development

    First off, notice how I used "content development" rather than "writing content"? The reason is that writing is really just a portion of the task, and it's important to stand your ground on that. Otherwise, non-writers will scoff at your metrics. "An hour for a definition? Ha! I could write one in a...
  • Blog Post: Those pesky computer innards

    This was a headline this morning on msnbc.com: IBM says it has doubled speed of computer innards . Of course that got my attention -- did IBM really say "innards"? No innards in the story. "IBM has devised a way to triple the amount of memory stored on computer chips and double the performance...
  • Blog Post: The system tray that never was

    In a a recent post , The Old New Thing made reference to terminology errors, citing the system tray as an example. To quote: "One of the most common errors is to refer to the Taskbar Notification Area as the "tray" or the "system tray". This has never been correct." We recently had several vigorous...
  • Blog Post: Changes to OpsMgr docs (System Center 2012) in Dec 2011

    If you follow us on Twitter (@opsmandoc), you'll be hearing about updated documentation for the Release Candidate being available later this week. Both TechNet and the downloadable docs will be refreshed. The following are the significant changes you can expect, in addition to added links and minor language...
  • Blog Post: Need volunteers: Operations Manager documentation survey

    Do you use Operations Manager? Would you be willing to complete a short email survey about operations documentation? If so, please send email to momdocs@microsoft.com . More details: The survey will be sent out approximately 21 March. We will use your responses to help us make decisions about organization...
  • Blog Post: 3 down, 2 to go

    I passed exam 70-270 ! My weakest area was security, probably because that isn't something I play with in XP too often. Next are exams 70-290 and 70-291 to complete my MCSA requirements. Does a technical writer at Microsoft need a Microsoft technical certification? That question can open a lively...
  • Blog Post: Great online thesaurus: Aiksaurus

    This is my favorite online thesaurus to date, and I only just discovered it tonight while searching hopelessly for a pair of words that I have yet to find...but that's a different story. However, in searching for something that would spark to mind the perfect pair of words, I got a link to Aiksaurus...
  • Blog Post: Writing good technical documentation, part 1

    A recent comment by "BPM software" suggested that I write about best practices for writing technical documentation. I thought about it for awhile and decided I couldn't really do it justice in one post - hence, "part 1". I'll begin by plagiarizing myself . What I said about management packs is just...
  • Blog Post: Glossary terms: the search for the definition

    I haven't mentioned working on the DPM version 2 glossary in awhile, but there's been steady progress. From my initial group of over 80 terms, we were able to delete almost 20% of them without even breaking a sweat. (I just realized that guesstimate of mine bears suspicious resemblance to the 80/20...
  • Blog Post: How to write really bad instructions

    This evening, trying to assemble a pressure-mounted baby gate for my dog, I picked up several tips and tricks for writing really bad instructions that I just have to share for everyone's edification: Only name half of the parts in the diagram. Users enjoy the challenge of matching line drawings with...
  • Blog Post: Update or rewrite: how do you decide?

    This is a common scenario for technical writers: there is existing content, let's say for V1 of a product, and the same content needs to be provided for V2. Do you limit your work to making changes to the existing content for technical accuracy with V2? Or do you start with a blank slate and design a...
  • Blog Post: It's worth your during

    I know, you're tired of hearing about difficulties translating the american-english language. Still, when I encounter such an amusing example, I just have to share... They didn’t care about my schedule, offering only general remarks about making it “worth my during.” I think they meant “while.” ...
  • Blog Post: "80/20" and content

    "80/20" is a ubiquitous principle (formula, law, etc.) that lends itself to statements such as "80% of a business's performance problems are due to 20% of the employees" and "80% of annual traffic accidents are caused by 20% of a region's drivers". (You can tell I made that last one up, right?) We...
  • Blog Post: Writing good technical documentation, part 2

    (Part 1) Joel Spolsky has an excellent post on the role of the program manager . I work with program managers, so I read through it comparing his descriptions with the PMs I've known. Then I got to the part on functional specifications and my interest level jumped a few notches. Because the spec...
  • Blog Post: Which user role(s) can perform this task?

    The content team is busily ramping up on doc plans for the next version of Operations Manager. (And I'll be very careful not to reveal anything about product changes, features, etc.) I'll be owning the operations content, so I'm working on new outlines and identifying current gaps. As I was going...