WritersUA User Assistance Tools Survey Bookmark and Share

Since the creation of Microsoft's WinHelp twenty 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.

The Tools Survey was published in January/February 2009. Nearly 400 people responded to our call for participation. What you have in front of you is a synthesis of the responses. Enjoy the information. We hope it is useful to you. Please send us any feedback you have on the survey or the analysis.

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Tool Usage

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.

Tool Usage

Adobe Acrobat (93%) leads the pack with over nine out of ten of us using that tool.

SnagIt continues to hold a lead (67%) for market share in the entry-level graphics market. It increased significantly over last year's 57%.

Visio is a new item in the survey and show it belongs with a strong six of ten respondents indicating they use it.

RoboHelp continues to be on top of the Help authoring space. After a slip in market share a few years ago it is now appears steady at 56%.

FrameMaker is very popular (53%) because of its robust capabilities for large-scale documentation development.

PhotoShop, another popular image manipulation utility is on the upswing (46%). Paint Shop Pro (42%) continues in the opposite direction.

MadCap Software's Flare (36%) has taken a large positive jump in the Help authoring space.

The support of respondents has slipped for Dreamweaver (35%). However, it still ranks highest among web-specific authoring tools.

The Captivate (31%) demo/training tool has climbed slightly from last year.

Microsoft's HTML Help Workshop (27%) 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.

A slight uptick in usage of WebWorks Publisher (27%) has moved this content transformation tool into the top ten list.

Other tools with significant representation were: Flash 22%, Camtasia 22%, InDesign 20%, WebWorks ePublisher 19%, CorelDRAW 13%, FullShot 12%, Fireworks 11%, Author-it 11%, XMetaL 9%, Blaze 8%, Mif2Go 7%, FAR HTML 7%, UltraEdit 6%, Help & Manual 6%.

The following tools were used by 5% or fewer of respondents: Expression, Arbortext, Doc-To-Help, Articulate, HyperSnap, Vasont CMS, Morae, Document! X, XMLmind, HelpStudio, HelpServer, HelpConsole.

Overall, thirty-seven tools were referenced by respondents in addition to the survey choices.

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.

Tool Satisfaction

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 the percentage of votes they received with ratings of 4 or 5. Only tools receiving 10% or more of the total responses are included.

Tool Usage



The original survey was published on the WritersUA web site in January/February 2009.

There were 391 respondents. Anyone could participate in the survey. We required respondents to identify themselves by first name, last name, and a valid email address.

This study comes with a couple of caveats. First, the majority of respondents are most likely customers of WritersUA. Most of the survey submissions came in response to email broadcasts we made to our mailing list. However, the WritersUA constituency is large and probably is a fair representation of the overall user assistance community. We also announced the survey on related discussion lists. Second, this survey is intended to represent the interests of technical writers involved in software user assistance and may not be representative of the technical communication or the software development communities at large.