Batman defeats Joker and other villains with the help of the items in his utility belt. Bob the Builder can fix just about anything with the tools in his belt. Military and law enforcement officers carry what they need to do their jobs and protect people on their belts.
Ok, so technical writers and instructional designers may not wear utility belts but keeping a variety of software tools at the ready for any situation is a good idea. To help you be efficient, up-to-date, and completive, I’ve gathered a list of common software tools in our industry to help you in any situation. The list is not all-inclusive, but it became rather extensive so I broke it into three tables – technical writing, instructor led training, including virtual instructor led training (VILT), and eLearning separately. Note, some software appears in more than one list.
Remember, you are responsible for your professional development. I’m hoping this software list will help you identify any weaknesses so you can take action to strengthen your tool belt. Knowing how to use the software and in which situations to use it is key.
Explanation of the difference between word processing, desktop publishing, and content authoring software:
Word processing software. These are the most basic authoring tools and sometimes that is all you need. Creating text styles like headings, adding headers and footer, and inserting graphics sometimes is enough to get the job done.
Desktop publishing software. These are a several steps up from word processing software. They are more robust and able to handle larger file sizes. With a desktop publishing software you can create page layouts for brochures, job aids, quick reference guides, and large manuals. Sections, chapters, indexes, table of contents, and references are easier to create and manage. Complex templates can be created once and reused over and over so that all of your documents have a consistent look.
Content authoring software. These also allow you to create page layouts but are geared towards larger manuals and other items that do not require as much graphic design elements. Content authoring software allows for publication to several formats including HTML, PDF, XML, etc.
Instructor Led Training (ILT and VILT)