Online groups, winter 2009
A member wants to show the location of a fuse on a printed circuit board, and use a callout to show how to remove the fuse. What guidelines are there about the use of callouts in technical documents? Members suggest the following things:
- Do not let the callout lines go across one another.
- Put the callouts in clockwise sequence around the edge of the illustration.
- If a callout line goes across an illustration, put a wider white line below the callout line to make the callout line clear.
- Use diagonal lines in preference to right angles in horizontal and vertical lines because diagonal lines are clearer, specially if the illustration has many horizontal and vertical lines.
- Make sure that the callout line cannot be confused with, or hide, lines in the illustration. Make the angles of the callout lines different from the lines of perspective on the illustration. For example, on an isometric drawing, do not use callout lines that are horizontal, or at 60 degrees, or at 30 degrees.
One member needs to monitor the development of simple document production projects. To help him, he wants software that is simpler and cheaper than Microsoft Project. Members suggested the following Windows-based software:
- Gantt chart template for Microsoft Excel (www.vertex42.com/ExcelTemplates/excel-gantt-chart.html). The file is partly locked, but an unlocked version is available for approximately £29.
- A free viewer for Microsoft Project files (www.kadonk.com).
Two useful applications for Mac OS are as follows:
In reply to a question about backing up data, one member wrote that it is important to analyse the risks, the results of losing data, and the costs. Risks include the accidental deletion of a file, defective internal hard disks, and the theft of a computer.
You protect against different risks in different ways. For example, one external hard disk and regular backups protects against the first two risks. However, if the backups are stolen, you are not protected. To protect against theft, you can use off-site backup. Backup methods that keep only one version of each file are not good, because they do not give protection if a corrupted file is backed up. The products from Data Robotics are good (www.drobo.com).
One member recommended 'What I Learned from Having My Laptop Stolen (http://tidbits.com/article/10165)'.
A technical illustrator continued the discussion of 3D illustration software (Online groups, Communicator, autumn 2009). Finding work is becoming more difficult. Possibly, that is because technical authors now do technical illustrations.
Some members agreed that technical authors are expected to create illustrations and to write text. However, the combination of roles can be a problem. An excellent technical author is not necessarily a good technical illustrator. The idea that 'if you can use a computer you can use all the software' has been a problem in the graphic design industry since the start of desktop publishing.
One member created a tag cloud (word cloud) from the TCUK09 conference programme (www.wordle.net/show/wrdl/1024716/TCUK09_programme). The tag cloud gives a good summary of what the conference is about, but there is some unnecessary information. To prevent some unwanted information, the member removed the names of people before she created the tag cloud.
Members gave many comments.
- If the words in the tag cloud are linked to other content with hot spots, the tag cloud becomes a method of navigation.
- The size of a word is related to the quantity of the content. Therefore, you can see whether content will probably be useful to you.
- The cover of Charles Cowan's book, XML in Technical Communication, shows a tag cloud.
- If Java is not installed correctly, there can be problems viewing the tag cloud in Firefox (www.wordle.net/faq#gray).