The 2007 WritersUA Skills and Technologies Survey
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Since the creation of Microsoft's WinHelp seventeen years ago, user assistance professionals have increasingly relied on tools to assist us in our daily work. Today with our more diversified documentation set, the number of tools we regularly use has become quite sizeable. Which tools do most of us find useful? Which tools provide us with the most satisfaction? This portion of the survey supplies you with a peer review to assist you in planning your tool acquisitions.
You can find links to all of these tools in the Tools section of the WritersUA User Assistance Resource Directory.
We presented respondents with a list of commonly used tools and asked them to provide us with a satisfaction rating for the ones they used. From that data we also identified the percentage of respondents using a particular tool.
Adobe Acrobat (93%) leads the pack with over nine out of ten of us using that tool. Acrobat PDF is listed in the Technologies section of this report as the most valued of all our technologies. So it's not surprising to see Acrobat here as a popular tool.
RoboHelp continues to dominate the Help authoring space, but the percentage of respondents using it has slipped to 56% this year from 63% in 2006.
FrameMaker is very popular (48%) because of its robust capabilities for large-scale documentation development. However, it has dropped from the 57% using it in 2006.
SnagIt has moved into the lead (57%) for the market share lead in the entry-level graphics market. Paint Shop Pro (44%)has dropped off significantly from 2006. PhotoShop (40%) is another popular image manipulation utility.
Microsoft's HTML Help Workshop (29%) is a free utility that provides basic support for HTML Help authoring. It continues a steady downward slide, likely due to an aging technology that has not been updated since 1998.
Dreamweaver (41%) continues to have the strongest representation for web-specific authoring tools. FrontPage has dropped off the top ten list of most popular choices.
The Captivate (31%) demo/training tool continues to climb in popularity.
A slight uptick in usage of WebWorks Publisher (27%) has moved this content transformation tool into the top ten list.
Note: Past surveys had consistently shown that well over 90% of respondents use Microsoft Word. We left Word off the survey to make room for other UA specific tools.
Flare from MadCap Software (25%) just missed the top ten as it increased significantly from 2006. AuthorIT also increased significantly (16%) from 2006.
Other tools with significant representation were: FrontPage (23%), FullShot (15%), FAR (13%), Flash (12%), ArborText (10%), and Doc-to-Help (9%).
Receiving numerous mentions were XMetal, BookVars, CorelDraw, and Visio.
Overall, sixty-three tools were referenced in addition to the eighteen survey choices.
Our perceptions of the tools we use is also an important consideration. Respondents indicated the value they placed on a particular tool they used by rating it from 1 (low) to 5 (high). The following chart shows the top-ranked tools based upon what percentage of votes they received with ratings of 4 or 5.