Suite, and a step beyond…

A privilege that I had in recent months was working as a technical writer on Adobe Technical Communication Suite. I had the opportunity to preview breakthroughs and features that would boost the productivity of technical communicators all over the world. Now, when Technical Communication Suite 2 has finally begun shipping, I am convinced that it comes closest to being the ‘integrated documentation environment’ that all of us have been waiting for.

TCS 2 puts great emphasis on integration. Along with Adobe Captivate 4, FrameMaker 9, RoboHelp 8 and Acrobat Professional Extended 9, it includes Adobe Photoshop CS4 in recognition of the fact that it isn’t just words that technical communicators deal in. And instead of being disjoint pieces of a puzzle, these components talk with one another as constituents of a platform. In particular, I am excited about the enhancements in FM-RH integration that enable you to author content once in FM and output it seamlessly in multiple formats using RH.

Another new workflow that I find very useful makes iterative shared review cycles less painful. You can now generate tagged PDFs from your FM files specifically for review, and once the reviewers are through with their bit of the carnage, you can import the Acrobat PDF comments back into the source FM document and decide what to do with them. This workflow has translated into hours of effort savings for me, as I hope it will for you.

Also worth more than an honorable mention is the new Adobe AIR Help format that enables true Web 2.0-age documentation. Users can now comment on online Help content in real time, suggesting enhancements, highlighting bugs, or simply adding a tip or two. Thus, instead of being static content that is ‘updated’ once in a while, documentation becomes a living, growing body of information, supported by the weight of an entire community. The documentation for TCS 2 itself is delivered as Adobe AIR Help. So you can go ahead right away and check out the power of this new format.

That is, of course, not all. More than anything else, I find TCS 2 notable for the way it brings together the leading content formats on the Web. There is plenty of dope to help you add interactivity, color and motion to your technical communications. Read more about the top new features of Adobe TCS 2 here.

Now that TCS 2 has reached you, the technical communicators that it was designed for, we look forward to suggestions and experiences. And yes, do keep coming to this blog as we share tidbits and tips to help you make the most of the flexibility that this suite has to offer.

Happy writing, then!