The Technical Author Departs

We continued on, then, deferring work on the documentation until at least we had frozen the user interface, still pinning our hopes on Word Doctor. Then the technical author left. She'd landed a full-time editing position on a magazine.

Again, I volunteered to work on the documentation. By now the engineering manager had succeeded in selling the idea of switching documentation tools to higher management. It was still hard for him to authorise me to actually write the documentation, though, since we had just recruited a new technical support engineer, based in North America. This engineer had nothing particular lined up for the next couple of weeks. What better way for him to learn about the Product than to write the user manual?

As it turned out it various delayed hardware deliveries meant it took him a couple of weeks to set up a server capable of actually running the Product—and then he was booked up on site visits. He didn't get to spend any time on documentation.

Version 1.0 was due to be released in a week's time. We had four chices:

  1. Ship with the existing documentation—which was dangerously out of date.
  2. Stub out the documentation entirely, so at least users wouldn't be misled by it.
  3. Revise the Microsoft Word document, use Word Doctor to generate HTML, reconnect the HTML to the Product.
  4. Rewrite the manual using DocBook.

We ruled out the first choice even though it required the least effort. The second seemed like an admission of defeat—could we seriously consider releasing a formal version of the Product without documentation? Noone present had any enthusiasm for the third choice.

So, finally, with less than a week until code freeze, I got assigned the task of finishing the documentation using the tools of my choosing.

Copyright © 2006 Thomas Guest