Technical Communication with Digital Publishing Systems
Overview, Textbooks, Policies, Grades
This course focuses on the skills you need to write technical documentation for the computer industry. In this course, you'll learn important conventions and guidelines to follow when writing technical documents and how to use Adobe FrameMaker or MadCap Flare (or both) to write technical documents. You do not need to have experience using these applications, but you do need to have basic word-processing skills (such as knowledge of how to open, save, and close document files, apply formatting to text, etc.)
Unfortunately, we do not have enough weeks in this course to cover all the features of this application, not to mention the advanced ones. Advanced FrameMaker and Flare courses are really needed: they would cover structured authoring, XML, DITA, and CMS.
This course features Camtasia recordings for FrameMaker and Flare. They are completely untested—help me make them better! The blue call-out bubbles probably need to be longer in duration. Keep your finger on the pause button!
Overview of Course Objectives
Here's what we'll be striving for in this course:
- Using standard guidelines for headings, bulleted and numbered lists, graphics, tables, notices, highlighting, headers, footers.
- Creating user guides with standard components such as headers, footers as well as front- and back-matter elements such as covers, tables of contents, and indexes.
- Using FrameMaker or Flare to create these elements and components.
- Using important FrameMaker or Flare features such as master pages, templates, character and paragraph tags, variables, autonumbering, and conditional text.
- Creating usable, readable, attractive, professional-looking documents.
- Using the standards of good written English.
- Adapting documents to nonspecialis audiences.
Note: This course is a vigorous, rapid-paced course. Be ready to work fast, hard, and smart. Do your best to keep up!
Textbooks: Required & Supplemental
- Sun Technical Pubs. Read Me First! 3rd ed. Prentice Hall.
I offer home-grown tutorials that are linked to the schedule, but you may find these resources useful also:
- Janet S. Underwood. Mastering Adobe FrameMaker x. Editions for FrameMaker 9, 10, and 11, 12, and 13 are available.
- FrameMaker tutorials at lynda.com. It's a $25/month subscription.
- Schedule changes: It's very likely that there will minor changes to the schedule as the semester goes along. It's your responsibility to watch the schedule and look for announcements in the class e-mail.
- Pace of the course: The key goals of this course are to
introduce you to using desktop-publishing software like FrameMaker or Flare and to enable you to produce book-like print documentation for hardware or software applications. The knowledge, skills, and portfolio items you gain from this course will be absolutely essential to you in getting employed as a professional technical communicator. To accomplish these goals, our course must be vigorous and fast-paced. Be prepared to work hard, work fast, and work smart. Do your best!
- Use of computer hardware and software: You must own or have access to an Internet-connected computer to participate in this course. You must have access to the World Wide Web and be able to use e-mail. You are not expected to own any specialized software or hardware: the TCM lab at NRG 4209 has desktop-publishing software, graphics software, and a scanner.
- Reading quizzes: Most of the lessons require that you read chapters in the Read Me First! textbook or other assigned readings. Brief quizzes test your comprehension of the assigned readings. Please complete these quizzes by their scheduled due dates shown on the course schedule page and the course calendar.
- FrameMaker or Flare: Unless you own a FrameMaker or Flare license, you'll have to come to Northridge room 4209 to practice what you learn in the tutorials and do the assignments in FrameMaker. FrameMaker and Flare are both expensive applications to purchase; however, you may be able to buy earlier versions which should be much less expensive. Please note that this course is not a FrameMaker- or Flare-training course. Instead, it is a technical documentation course that features FrameMaker or Flare.
- Revisions: You can revise any assignment once in order to get a higher grade. Your highest revision grades are used to calculate your final grade for the course. You are not obligated to revise assignments.
- Computer knowledge: You must have a solid end-user familiarity with computers and Windows to do well in this course. You need to be comfortable with creating, editing, and saving files; creating directories (folders); moving files to different directories; and so on. Be willing to learn, ask questions, and do the necessary research to support your documentation projects.
- Graphics: You need not have any skills as a graphics artist is this course. You can cut and paste graphics, scan or trace them, or use clip art to produce the artwork you need for your documentation projects. All I ask is that you be respectful of copyrights. If you need to use a scanner, one is available in the TCM lab (NRG 4209).
- Plagiarism: Using other people's written work as if it were your own can result in an F for the course and expulsion from the college. Be sure you have read and understood the current issue of ACC's
Student Handbook and Academic Handbook for information about procedures and about what constitutes scholastic dishonesty.
- Extra help: If you need help understanding the concepts in this course, thinking of writing projects, getting access to computers, using the software, producing professional-looking documents, handling basic writing matters (such as parallelism, punctuation, or subject-verb agreement), contact your instructor or post questions to the class by e-mail or bulletin board.
- Withdrawals & incompletes. If you fall behind in the course and miss more than two consecutive assignments, I may withdraw you from the class. To be on the safe side, do the withdrawal yourself. Incompletes will only be granted if you have an emergency and have only the last writing project remaining to complete.
- Disabilities: If you have any disability or impairment that may affect your work for this course, please contact your instructor as soon as possible.
The following describes the grading categories:
- Quizzes. This course includes short online quizzes that test your comprehension of the assigned readings. See below for details on how they count in your final grade.
- Personal memo and questionnaire. At the beginning of the semester, you'll write a personal memo that will be posted for the rest of the class to see and fill out a questionnaire for your instructor. While both are required no points are given for writing a personal memo and completing the questionnaire.
- FrameMaker or Flare practice. Associated with nearly every tutorial is a practice exercise that you send to your instructor. The point of these practices is to give you lots of practice with FrameMaker or Flare.
- FrameMaker or Flare tags project. You'll format text, making it look exactly like a corresponding PDF document.
- Chapter-formatting project. You'll format text and graphics using tags and templates that you develop on your own.
- Book-formatting project. You'll design and format chunks of instructor-supplied text for a book and then use them to build a complete book in FrameMaker or Flare.
- Brief procedures. However much we must focus on FrameMaker or Flare, this is still primarily a writing class. The assignment to write a brief 2-page procedures document is essential because you need to practice the writing style, headings, lists, notices, highlighting, and other such areas that are common in technical publishing.
- Final project. Your final project in this course will be a brief user guide (minimally, 3 body chapters at least 2 pages each) with front and back matter that is typical of a "real" user guide and including automated components that you learn how to do in the class. You can do this project as a team or solo.
- Final-project announce. An important part of this project will be your project planning: you "announce" the project to the rest of the class and your instructor.
Final grades will be determined this way:
|Practice exercises (6 pairs)
|Adobe FrameMaker Forum or MadCap Flare Forum visit
|Brief procedure (2)
Information and programs provided by firstname.lastname@example.org.