December 2, 2012 · Conferences, LibreOffice, Tools & technology · Comments Off

The slides from my talk “LibreOffice User Documentation: Successes and Challenges” are available from my website in ODP and PDF formats.

Presented at the LibreOffice Conference, Berlin, October 2012.

June 21, 2012 · Conferences, LibreOffice, Tools & technology · Comments Off

I presented a talk about LibreOffice documentation at this conference:

Open Help Conference & Sprints
I did not produce any slides for this talk. My rough notes are here: OpenHelp Talk (PDF).

July 17, 2010 · Tools & technology · Comments Off

I haven’t tried this extension to OpenOffice.org, because I don’t use Windows, but it sounds interesting (if not misused or abused as often happens with “readability” scores). Would like to hear from someone who has used it.

The Readability Report tool scores your document for readability, cohesion and information density. These scores provide the author with an indication of how well the intended audience will understand the text. The scores use a variety of computational linguistic techniques to determine the reading level of the text.

At the AODC 2010 conference, Sarah Maddox, who works for Atlassian, an agile development environment, spoke on engaging readers in the documentation and the concept of documentation as an emotional experience.

Sarah explained the advantages to both the customers and the company of involving readers (users) and discussed some of the techniques that Atlassian has been experimenting with. These include social media (blogs, a forum, and Twitter), a “doc sprint” (an intensive time spent producing documents such as tutorials), encouraging users to update community documentation on a wiki, links to readers’ blogs, and an interactive game that customers can use to help them through the complex installation and configuration of a product.
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April 19, 2010 · Books, Skills, Tools & technology · Comments Off

Geoff Hart’s Effective Onscreen Editing is an essential resource for anyone who edits onscreen, regardless of the word processor in use. Geoff’s examples are from Microsoft Word, but most of his recommendations can be translated readily to OpenOffice.org or other programs. The book is available in both PDF and printed forms, each optimised for its format: the PDF is in landscape format, while the printed book is in portrait format. See this page for details.
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February 2, 2010 · Tools & technology · Comments Off

What can “cloud computing” offer to technical editors? Quite a lot, I think. I’ll be writing more about this topic as I get more involved in using different features.

At the moment, the main items of interest to me are those related to syncing files between two or more computers, preferably with Web access to the files so I can get to them when I’m using someone else’s machine. Having Web access to files means, of course, storing copies of those files on someone else’s server, which has the added advantage of providing offsite storage for disaster recovery purposes. I’d also like to have a way to share a subset of those files with other people.

I haven’t had time to get any automated backup and syncing system working, or even thoroughly research what my choices are, but most of the choices that I’ve been aware of have been either Windows only, or Mac only, or so geeky to implement that I’m not interested. However, that seems to be rapidly changing.

One possibility is Dropbox, which works on Windows, Mac, and Linux and even has an iPhone app—as well as “mobile-optimized” versions for Blackberry and other Internet-capable mobile devices. I’ve been using Dropbox in a very limited way for some time (free space is 2GB, similar to most other services I’m aware of), but I’m now considering using it for more files even if I have to pay for more storage space.

(If you should choose to use Dropbox, please register using the link above so I get some extra free storage space out of the deal… and you do, too.)

Because I use Ubuntu Linux for the vast majority of my work, I’m also considering Ubuntu One and have just signed up for an account to try it out. Like Dropbox, Ubuntu One provides 2GB of free storage, and the pricing for more space is similar to the pricing for Dropbox. I don’t know yet what the limitation are for using it when Ubuntu isn’t available.

Syncing bookmarks using Xmarks

For over a year I’ve been using Xmarks to sync my browser bookmarks between my various computers and have access to them from other computers and my iPhone. Xmarks began as a Firefox add-on called FoxMarks, but it now supports Safari, Internet Explorer, and Google Chrome as well.

That’s enough for today.

January 28, 2010 · Tools & technology · Comments Off

Like most writers and editors, I often need to receive files from clients and collaborators and send files to them. Usually these files are small to moderate in size (<2MB) but sometimes they can be quite large. Even smallish ones can cause problems for some people's email inboxes, and large ones are often incompatible with email (taking far too long to download, if no other problems occur).

Enter the file-sharing and file-sending websites, of which there are many offering a variety of services, for free or for a fee. For simple send-and-receive situations, all I want is a free, easy-to-use site which does not require registration or download of any software, runs on any operating system that I have (Windows, Ubuntu Linux, Mac OS X), has file size limits that are larger than I’m likely to need, and preferably isn’t cluttered with blinking advertisements. I don’t need long-term storage (more than a week). Many services meet these requirements. One I particularly like is senduit, which has one of the cleanest and easiest-to-use web pages I’ve ever seen—and it’s advertising-free!