Presented by Bonnie Kim
Visual Aids by Rebecca Firestone
Review by Mysti Berry
Technial writer Bonnie Kim shared with us the story of how ZepSolar adjusted processes and tools to create graphics-dependent documentation in print and video more quickly.
The process originally involved creating graphics from scratch whenever any changes occurred, because the graphics had to move across a complex tool chain: from a library of specifications to SolidWorks, Adobe Acrobat, Jing, Photoshop/Illustrator, and InDesign/FrameMaker. Changes due to inconsistent visuals, product design changes, or content errors meant starting over.
Bonnie’s team stopped editing files in PDF and Jing, and started doing all editing of files in SolidWorks Composer, reducing many of the round-trips required when changes occurred. The team used more sophisticated SolidWorks tools, like transforms and annotations (labels, arrows, and “diggers”), to make production of the graphics faster.
Animation for video is also easier to create because SolidWorks has sophisticated tools that make many things easier, like specifying camera view (also available for print graphics), or intelligent views that save the placement and orientation of components or sets of components. They can apply the same transformation across many static views, and save the transformation for later use.
With the tools adjustment, the workflow is a simpler process, from pulling specifications from a library through SolidWorks assembly, composition, layout, and edits. Of course, every tool has its strengths and weaknesses. Bonnie shared with us that imports can be tricky in SolidWorks; it has a high price tag, and there are a few bugs in the program. Nonetheless, the professional look and feel, new vector-graphic capabilities, and small, efficient files all make SolidWorks the right solution for her team.
Bonnie’s changes can be applied to software documentation production as well. Simplifying your tool chain and reducing the number of repeat round trips required for any task applies to software documentation as easily as hardware.
Bonnie recommends that every team learn the product they are documenting as thoroughly as possible, and then get training for your tool as it likely can do more than you realize, and then, let members of your team specialize. Of course, everyone should have a certain level of versatility, but when deadlines loom, specializing in certain skills can speed up production.