Technical and Professional Writing program receives donated software

Lars Söderlund

English professor Lars Söderlund secured donations of two state-of-the-art software programs to use in his Usability and Documentation course.

Wright State technical writing students are working with state-of-the-art programs thanks to donations from two leading software companies, helping students hone skills they will use in their careers.

Lars Söderlund, who coordinates the Technical and Professional Writing program, worked with the companies to secure donations of Adobe Technical Communications Suite and Madcap Flare for use in his Usability and Documentation course.

Having access to the software programs will help students “learn the building blocks of how technical writing happens and how documentation is written,” said Söderlund, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of English Language and Literatures. “When students use these real-world interfaces, they see the stakes and the practices that they will become part of when they join the technical-writing career community.”

Wright State received access to 60 licenses of Adobe Technical Communications Suite and 31 Madcap Flare, totaling more than $66,000 in software.

Adobe Technical Communications Suite includes popular programs such as Acrobat Pro, Illustrator, Presenter, FrameMaker and RoboHelp, which creates help files in online and PDF formats.

Similar to RoboHelp, Madcap Flare creates technical documents like online help menus, FAQs, software manuals and product instructions.

Writers can use both programs to write, publish and organize technical documents by topics in online databases, PDF format or print. The programs can also customize content to meet users’ experience level.

This semester, students in Usability and Documentation are using the programs to write instructions for bar code scanners and electronic systems for Crown Packaging and to create sample documentation for science fiction and fantasy worlds (for instance, how to survive in a Star Wars landscape or operating instructions for a Hunger Games arena).

Flare and RoboHelp are popular among technical writers and are frequently used by small- and medium-sized software companies, Söderlund said.

“It should transition well into the students’ technical writing careers because a lot of companies use either this software or a form of organization that is close to it,” he said. “So that’ll be helpful because they’re used in the real world.”

Contemporary technical writing involves a combination of simple writing and researching and using computer systems to work more efficiently.

“Learning those computer systems in advance is a real help,” Söderlund said “and a way of getting the students to hit the ground running when it comes to them joining a company and figuring out how things work.”

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