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The 2011 WritersUA Skills and Technologies Survey

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Our organizations embrace multiple platforms as a way to maximize product usage and to offset the high cost of software development. However, this results in many difficult challenges for software developers. In our part of the development process, the design and implementation of user assistance components is dictated largely by the nature and number of different platforms we need to support.

In our survey we asked respondents to identify all of the platforms their products run on. Microsoft is still the dominant player. Almost all of the survey respondents (97%) indicated that their products support the recent versions of Windows 1, including 7, Vista, XP, and Server. Far fewer, 35%, support the older versions of Windows 2(2000, NT, and earlier).

Platform Support

The World Wide Web (69%) is recognized as the second biggest platform for respondents supporting it. Most software organizations appear to either already have versions of their products that can be delivered over the Web or they have some sort of strategy for doing so in the future. Server-side deployment of user assistance will be a growing issue for us over the next few years. In our survey we distinguished between Web applications running on the Internet and those running on intranets/extranets. The latter category is supported by 47% of the respondents.

The OS cousins of UNIX (28%) and Linux (34%) each are supported by about a third of respondents. UNIX includes Solaris, HP-UX, and AIX variants. With no common Help standard, browser-based Help has become the most popular solution for user assistance in this arena.

Java sits at (26%). It is now a core component for Android applications. The JavaHelp standard has been uncoupled from Sun and dropped into the open source domain.

The broad label of Mobile is now supported by a healthy 24% of respondents. This represents a variety of operating systems within this category, including iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, Symbian, RIM, and others.

Mac OS X has risen from 6% a few years ago to 22% in the current survey. The influence of iPods/iTunes/iPhones appears to be increasing the strength of the platform.

Other plaforms mentioned by respondents: AS400, Citrix, ColdFusion, earlier versions of Mac OS, Guardian, IBM mainframe (System i/IBMi), in-house custom OS, QNX, QT Nokia, SGI.


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shannonm *at* writersua *dot* com


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WritersUA offers cutting-edge training and information to Technical Writers, Information Analysts and Architects, Documentation Designers, Help Authors, Publication Managers, Documentation Leads, Senior Writers and Documentation Contractors, and User Education Specialists. The focus is on software user assistance, which encompasses writing, editing, planning, coding, indexing, testing, programming, localization, and standards development.

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