How do you learn new software is a question I often get asked when interviewing for a contract. It helps that I’ve always liked figuring out how things work and I always liked showing off what I know. Those childhood traits still serve me well.

My husband teases me that I never read the manual—be it for a digital camera, dishwasher, or software. I just jump in and start fiddling with things. It’s true that even though I’m a technical writer I rarely read the manual to learn software. I read manuals, online help, or other instructional content for other reasons which I’ll share later.

My personal learning style is to learn by doing or kinesthetic learning. I jump in and use it and presume I can figure it out. To learn a client’s product, I like to see a demo if possible to see which features the company considers most important before I start my own exploratory process.

keyboard_typing

I also skim any existing documents—project plans, engineering design documents, functional specifications, UI specifications, QA test plans, training plans (if I’m writing documentation), documentation plans (if I’m developing training materials), and skim previous releases of the documentation or training materials if it exists. I use these supporting documents to confirm who the target audiences are and to develop a comprehensive list of the procedures that need to be documented. Depending on the scope of the project, if I can obtain them I will also look at the competitive product’s documentation or training materials to see how they define their audience and which tasks they cover.

Traditional instructional design theory says that the standard modalities of learning are visual, auditory, kinesthetic/touch, smell, and taste. Admittedly, the last two types are rarely used in learning software. In grad school we were asked to use each type of learning style in class so that we could experience them ourselves. I think back on that experience as I design learning content and try to provide content that supports each type of learner.

And Life Goes On

March 19, 2022

This is a brief post to say that I’m still around but have been distracted by life part of last year and the start of this year. I lost my beloved father to cancer in January 2022. My mother passed five years earlier. It’s strange to realize that you no longer have living parents. At the moment, I’ve been too busy with the work I currently have and the seemingly endless list of tasks that happen after someone passes away. I look forward to the time that the list gets small enough that I can enjoy life more and not …

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laptop with coffee Working from home

March 28, 2020

ABOUT SERVICES CLIENTS BLOG CONTACT Many people are now experiencing working from home for perhaps the first time. I’ve been mostly working from home since I started my own business. Here’s a few things I’ve learned after years of doing it:Create a space in your house dedicated to work. When I first started doing freelance writing my desk was located at the end of our dining room. Later we remodeled to add a home office. When the space was in view, I made sure to tidy up at the end of every day and “close shop”. Now, I can simply close the …

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photo of book with glasses on it Are you the kind of person who reads instruction manuals before using something?

April 10, 2018

ABOUT SERVICES CLIENTS BLOG CONTACT Technical writing and instruction manuals don’t frequently get mentioned in the press. When they do I’m happy to see them mentioned. http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20180403-inside-the-world-of-instruction-manuals     Working from home March 28, 2020 ABOUT SERVICES CLIENTS BLOG CONTACT Many people are now experiencing working from home for perhaps the first time. I’ve been mostly working from home since I started my own business. Here’s a few things I’ve learned after years of doing it:Create a space in your house dedicated to work. When I first started doing freelance writing my desk was located at the end of our dining …

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chameleon Blogging when you aren’t a blogger

March 26, 2017

ABOUT SERVICES CLIENTS BLOG CONTACT When I started this blog, I thought I’d write a post a month. The reality is I seem to manage to write a post a year. I write for my clients all of the time covering a variety of subjects. I feel chameleon-like slipping from writing style to writing style. I want my work to seamlessly merge with their existing content. I have a lot of information to convey and a specific viewpoint to present from. The words flow easily.Chameleon contemplating it’s next move It’s harder to write when suddenly it’s my voice. What do I want …

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My how time flies

January 3, 2016

ABOUT SERVICES CLIENTS BLOG CONTACT I had a New Year’s intention last year of writing a blog post a month and then I got busy with work and life. It was a higher priority to write content for my clients than to write content for this site. However, it wasn’t all work…in 2015 we had an amazing vacation–one of those epic events–we went to Rapa Nui, more commonly known as Easter Island. It is a small island 2500 miles of the coast of Chile. Now that we’ve been there, I encourage you to go too. Look it up, learn about …

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Priorities

November 22, 2014

ABOUT SERVICES CLIENTS BLOG CONTACT Now that the leaves are turning red here in CA I finally have time to return to my site and post this short update. Both work and life have keep me busy since my last post.By the way, this is the view out my office window. I’m lucky to work mostly from home.I’ve been juggling multiple clients and projects, a personal life, and activities that were a higher priority than writing an update for this blog. Now the blog gets my attention.There are two key elements to priorities: making them and acting in accordance to …

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Migrating Birds Migration

March 5, 2014

ABOUT SERVICES CLIENTS BLOG CONTACT Migration—the act of changing location from one place to another or the seasonal movement of a population from one area to another. Migration has been a theme in my recent work projects except instead of changing location the migrations were moving content from one authoring tool to another. I worked on projects where I migrated content from Framemaker and WebWorks Publisher to MadCap Flare, from Articulate Studio to Articulate Storyline, and from Microsoft Word to Adobe InDesign. This post is in written in conjunction with migrating my website content from HTML authored in Dreamweaver to …

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