Adobe Embraces the Technical Communication Revolution With TCS3

Jan 11, 2011

In a culture filled with tweets, apps, and high-resolution video, when users need technical information and online help, they no longer just want it delivered fast; they want it delivered in the most engaging and exciting way possible. Bullet-point lists and 2D slides do not cut it anymore. The way we consume content is shifting, and at Adobe, those working with technical communication services are ready for the change. Targeting technical communicators, Adobe released version three of its Technical Communication Suite, on Jan. 11, an authoring and publishing toolkit for technical information and training material.

As RJ Jacquez, senior product evangelist for Adobe, explains, Technical Communication Suite 3 was created in response to end users demanding more of Adobe technical customers. For the past 20 years, "Help has remained static. There are many revolutions taking place around social media, single source publishing, and video. Our customers are telling us that their end users are demanding more from them," says Jacquez. End users want their experience to be "more interactive, have richer documentation, and they want this experience to be socially enabled." To accomplish this feat, Technical Communication Suite 3 contains five tightly integrated Adobe applications including Acrobat X, Adobe Captivate 5, Photoshop CS5, and new versions of the suite's major products, RoboHelp 9 and FrameMaker 10.

For customers interested in adding rich media to technical information, Adobe FrameMaker 10, an authoring and publishing solution for print-based documentation and PDF, now enables communicators to imbed full-blown movie files, MP4 files, and a host of other media formats. As Jacquez explains, "Instead of an end user reading the procedural steps about how to accomplish something, perhaps it is easier to watch a movie on how to do it." Communicators can even imbed 3D models. "Why do you want to limit your end users to consuming a static two dimensional version of a model when you can include the 3D model," asks Jacquez. When the project is published, all end users will need to consume the content is a free PDF reader. In addition, since "many customers are migrating from unstructured workflows to something a little more structured," FrameMaker 10 includes support for XML and DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture).

To enhance the collaboration side of technical communication, RoboHelp 9, a help, policy, and knowledgebase authoring and publishing solution, allows users to send files out for review via the cloud or, for customers still wary of a cloud, through internal servers or a company's SharePoint workspace. With features such as the review menu, a new addition which allows technical communicators to enable end user commenting, to filter comments, and to play the role of moderator, "RoboHelp 9 makes online help a little more social," says Jacquez. For example, "Using a cloud, reviewers get an email with a link where they can go get the file. We can all collaborate and add comments," Jacquez explains. After users have completed the review process, as the moderator, communicators can then "aggregate everyone's comments in the PDF and import comments back into the source. This all happens dynamically and automatically," erasing the need for multiple monitors and side by side PDFs to compile reviews.

RoboHelp 9 and FrameMaker 10 also tap into other social media trends, such as user generated and mobile content. "Help should also be that social platform where users come together," says Jacquez. With this idea in mind, RoboHelp 9 allows communicators to link URLs to search topics in online help, so, as Jacquez explains, "When someone is consuming documentation, on top of the topics that cover their topic, they get additional content" such as blogs and forums. Furthermore, to reach end users who are consuming content through devices such as e-readers, tablets, and mobile phones, RoboHelp 9 and FrameMaker 10 support publishing to the popular eBook format, ePub. "Technical communicators are beginning to ask themselves how to take documentation and push it out to mobile devices," says Jacquez, and "one way people are doing that is by using the ePub standard."

For those concerned with single source publishing, Technical Communication Suite 3 helps avoid having to toggle back and forth between applications by allowing users to publish documentation to an online format from directly within FrameMaker 10. Since FrameMaker 10 is dynamically linked to RoboHelp 9, from the FrameMaker 10 publish menu, users will be able to specify which output format they wish to generate, such as WebHelp or HTML, which folder it will be published to, and RoboHelp 9 will automatically step forward and publish the content. "FrameMaker 10 is your single source," says Jacquez, adding that "FrameMaker 10 and RoboHelp 9 talk to each other in a dynamic way," so users "author in FrameMaker 10, link in RoboHelp 9, and generate online help."

While new versions of RoboHelp 9 and FrameMaker 10 can be purchased separately, the five Adobe applications included in the Technical Communication Suite 3 all work together in an effort to achieve one major goal: "to enable our customers to not just deliver a static experience," says Jacquez, "but to deliver a richer generation of documentation."