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I've been asked to modernize some technical documentation - user manuals in particular. I have some guidelines, but a lot of free rein to take it in whatever direction I think is worthwhile. Where can I look to learn what exactly is a good example of "modern" technical documentation? I'm interested in resources such as websites that describe best practices as well as resources for learning state-of-the-art tools.

I am interested in tools and specifically information on layout and organization.

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@JohnSmithers - does the edit help? – justkt Jul 25 '12 at 13:14
Please excuse me if I misunderstand your question. But regarding tools and layout - have you had a look at LaTeX? Sure, it's been around for a while, but still very powerful when it comes to scientific writing. Might I ask which kind of user manuals you mean? Like, do you need program listings or many mathematic formulas or chemical formulas and so on. – Philipp Grassl Aug 20 '12 at 20:26
You may want to clarify what is meant by "modern." Are you supposed to be converting print manuals to IETMs or to a help system? I know the Society for Technical Communication has an annual contest for documentation. Contest winners might be good examples. Reading a few recent issues might also be a good overview of best practices. – Kelly Tessena Keck Sep 7 '12 at 20:13
@KellyTessenaKeck - I am making manuals that are digital at least somewhat more IETM-like. Thanks for the excellent suggestion on the documentation contest winners. – justkt Sep 9 '12 at 23:20
up vote 4 down vote accepted

There are a few tech writing blogs and forums that I like. Joining STC is useful, though it costs $195 a year ($160 if you graduated within the last three years). Membership includes access to both their publications. Intercom has a lot of best practices articles and information about new tools, while Technical Communications is their academic journal.

I'd Rather Be Writing - a blog about the latest trends in tech writing: http://idratherbewriting.com/

The Content Wrangler - a blog and community about managing content as a business asset http://thecontentwrangler.com/

E-mail lists or forums might be another good way to get information. TechWr-L (http://www.techwr-l.com/) is a good group with lots of knowledgeable people. You might find some good information going back through their archives with keywords like "IETM" or the names of specific tools you want to learn more about.

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protected by Neil Fein Sep 17 '12 at 22:23

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