Introducing: Adobes Software for the Technical Writer

Updated: The Technical Communication Suite integrates four Adobe publishing products to make technical writers' jobs easier.

Determined to earn revenues beyond the Web developer market, Adobe Sept. 25 released its Technical Communication Suite, a bundle of software designed to help technical writers improve the way they create technical documentation.

TCS seeks to help educate users via both traditional text and graphics and rich media, and it supports Adobe Flash Player-compatible video, SWF, MP3 and AVI files as well as Adobe PDF (Portable Document Format), XML and Darwin Information Typing Architecture.

The suite combines three existing Adobe products—Captivate 3, which is used to create software simulations; Acrobat 3D Version 8, which lets users create 3-D documents without additional CAD software; and FrameMaker 8, an authoring tool designed to handle complex technical manuals—and an update to one of its products—RoboHelp 7, a tool used to create online help systems.

The new suite comes almost as an afterthought to the companys Flash, Flex and the AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime, formerly code-named Apollo) Web development technologies, whose futures were discussed Sept. 20 at the FlashForward conference in Boston.


Adobe maps the future of Flash, Flex and AIR. Click here to read more.

The technical collaboration market lacks the oomph of the Web development software market, but Adobe is determined to show that TCS is a game changer in a market full of point solutions.

The company is positioning the suite as the first complete tool kit for authoring and publishing technical information and instructional content, said Michael Hu, senior product marketing manager for Adobe, in a recent interview with eWEEK.

"Were going to change the dynamics of this industry and change how people are creating content and change how people consume this content," Hu said.

With TCS, authors can update their online help systems with information authored in FrameMaker 8, without the need to reimport files for each update, Hu said. Moreover, TCS features wizards and templates to allow users to incorporate table of contents, indexes, glossaries, graphics, sound, video, simulations and navigation. Authors can generate multiple content tables and apply conditional tags, index items and folders, and tailor output for HTML, Adobe PDF and FlashHelp.

By adding Captivate 3 to the TCS, technical authors can present quizzes, visual product demonstrations and simulations without the need for multimedia development skills.

Finally, Acrobat 3D Version 8 lets documentation workers collaborate with each other on 3-D designs via Adobe PDF documents without having to purchase separate, pricey CAD software.


Read more here about Adobe Acrobat 8.

Several individual software products compete with the tools in Adobe TCS. For example, Microsoft Word, PTC Arbortext and JustSystems XMetaL compete with FrameMaker 8. 4ST Help Server, Quadralay WebWorks and MadCap Flare rival RoboHelp. Viewlet, TurboDemo and Toolbook compete with Acrobat 3D.

But Adobe is the only company that offers all of the technical documentation tools in a single suite, Hu argued.

Bought separately, each product in the Adobe TCS would cost in the neighborhood of $3,600, Hu said. But TCS will be available for Microsoft Windows Vista and Windows XP by the end of October for $1,599. Users can upgrade for $999 if they have prior versions of Adobe Captivate, FrameMaker or RoboHelp.

RoboHelp 7 and RoboHelp Server 7 will be available by the end of October for Microsoft Windows Vista, Windows XP or Windows 2000; pricing will be $999 for RoboHelp 7 and $1,999 for RoboHelp Server 7. Customers of RoboHelp 6 and RoboHelp Server 6 can upgrade for $79 and $160, respectively. Customers of any other version of RoboHelp can upgrade to RoboHelp 7 for $499.

Editors Note: Michael Hu is senior product marketing manager for Adobe. He was incorrectly identified as Michael Wu.


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