Online groups, spring 2013

Professional indemnity insurance

A member who recently started to do contract work asked about professional indemnity insurance (PII). Is PII necessary only some types of contract, or is PII useful for all types of contract?

Professional indemnity insurance is insurance against compensation that you must pay to your customers or to third parties because of problems with your work.

PII is mandatory only for regulated professions such as accountants and lawyers. For all other professional people, the buying of PII is a commercial decision. However, some companies will give you contract work only if you have PII.

PII is on a 'claims made basis', which means that you must have an insurance policy when a claim is made. When you did the work is not important. For example, if a customer finds an error in work that you did 2 years ago, and if the customer makes a claim, the insurance policy that you have today will deal with the claim, not an insurance policy that you had 2 years ago. Most errors are found only after the work is done. If you must have PII for a contract, a policy for a year is almost useless. Make sure that you have insurance for some years after the last contract.

Spelling and grammar checkers

In Microsoft Word, the spelling checker is not always correct. A member wanted an alternative spelling and grammar checker to use with Word.

PerfectIt is an add-on for Word ( PerfectIt finds inconsistent text. For example, PerfectIt shows inconsistent capitalization of headings. You can select the checks that you want PerfectIt to do. A free trial is available.

A review of PerfectIt is in Communicator, spring 2011. A member thinks that version 2 is much better than the version that was reviewed.

When I wrote this review, I remembered the StyleWriter editing software ( A review is in Communicator, summer 2011.

Cloud-based HATs

Cloud computing "is the delivery of on-demand computing resources—everything from applications to data centers—over the Internet and on a pay-for-use basis".

A member wants to find a cloud-based help authoring tool (HAT) to create and manage online documentation. The member knows about HelpIQ [editor's note: now ProProfs Knowledge Base (] and asked what other cloud-based help authoring tools are available. Members suggested these HATs:

A member likes Alfresco, but she said that Alfresco is not designed for help systems (

Although Arbortext Editor is not a help authoring tool, a member said, "We have deployed Arbortext Editor in the cloud successfully for a customer" (

Managing distributed teams

A member will manage the work between a development team in The Netherlands, a technical writing team in Northern Ireland, and the member's team in Scotland. The member wants to know how to work effectively.

For meetings, make a list of topics to discuss. Everyone must know what they want to speak about. If the different teams expect different things, a meeting can be inefficient. Many short meetings are better than one long meeting.

Managing a distributed team requires much time and effort:

To keep the trust and the understanding, a team manager must deal with problems and conflicts quickly and without hiding opinions and facts.


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