Today we will not talk about a head covering which is worn for various reasons but about tools for writing.
HAT stands for a help authoring tool. It’s a software program used by technical writers to create online help topics, documentation, FAQs, and the like. Here is how it looks inside:
It’s like MS Word but a help authoring tool has a wide range of features. Help authoring tools reduce the time and efforts needed to create help topics and documentation by providing all the necessary features to write and publish manuals. For example, ClickHelp, an online help authoring tool, provides users with the following features:
- Password-protected online help.
- Easy importing and exporting. The most popular formats like HTML, CHM, PDF, DOCX, DOC, RTF, EPUB, etc. are supported. So, if you want to move from another tool, you can import your documents and that’s all.
- Powerful Full-Text Search. ClickHelp has its own patented full-text search that helps you and your readers find topics easily, it also supports wildcard and also if you need, it’s possible to exclude specific topics from full-text search results.
- Easy to use WYSIWYG topic editor, as well as HTML source mode.
- Reporting. ClickHelp has internal analytics that will help you measure team performance metrics and analyze end-user behavior statistics.
- Context Help engine to add context help elements to your web applications.
- Powerful CSS-based content styling.
As you can see, it’s more feature-rich than MS Word that takes technical writing to the next level.
List of HATs
- Adobe RoboHelp
- MadCap Software
- Help & Manual
I described the most popular tools in my article — Software Tools for Technical Writing. It’s based on the G2 Crowd score that’s formed by customer satisfaction. I’m sure you’ll find something that will meet your needs.
Do I Need it?
In spite of the fact that a help authoring tool seems like MS Word, technical writers really need a HAT for many reasons (the reasons are based on my experience of using ClickHelp. Some tools may not have the following options):
- A HAT reduces time and efforts on producing documentation. The editor is the same as MS Word editor, so your knowledge is enough. There is no need to learn new skills.
- You can easily work with your team on the same user guide at the same time. You don’t need to send a document via email, wait for review, search for the latest version — everyone has access to the document.
- You can easily publish your documentation, no need to create a website.
- Brand your documentation according to your business colors and needs.
- Analyze the effectiveness of your documentation using Google Analytics and internal statistics.
I chat with many tech writers and, unfortunately, many of them use MS Word. Of course, some tech writers use it because of a company policy but if it’s possible, have a look at a HAT. I’m sure it will make your tech writing process more productive.
Do you use a help authoring tool? What is your experience?