Technical Writing & Documentation
Application Programming Interface (API) documentation describes the services a given API offers as well as how to use those services, covering everything the user would need to know in order to programmatically interface via that API.
A sheet or pages, complete with detailed illustrations, showing and describing how to assemble a product. Assembly Instructions can be simple or complex, depending on the item needing assembly.
Configuration Guides contain technical setup information for complex software that is typically enterprise, multi-server software-based. Configuration guides are aimed at system administrators and network configurators.
Database Administrator Guide
A Database Administrator Guide provides database administrators with information creating, maintaining, backing up, and recovering databases, as well as instructions for defining various types of users, authorizing user access, and working with different types of database objects.
Database Reference Guide
A Database Reference Guide provides reference information about database initialization parameters, static data dictionary views, dynamic performance views, database limits, and SQL scripts. The intended audience includes database administrators, system admins, and database application developers.
A datasheet, sometimes called a “sell sheet” is a single sheet (one-sided or two-sided) that lists the functionality of a given piece of hardware (such as a printer) or component (such as a replacement cartridge). While there can be marketing language in the sheet, selling is kept to a minimum other than what the quality of the workmanship (parts, technical specs, assembly processes) implies.
A Documentation Plan is used to schedule and allocate resources to create and maintain technical content deliverables for a specified project or product. The plan describes the audiences, content types and output media, and provides a schedule for development and completion of deliverables.
Professional technical documentation needs to be prepared in accordance with regulatory and industry standards. Technical editing ensures that documentation is error-free, properly formatted, accurate, and in line with the pre-determined specifications.
An Errata is a correction of a published text. An erratum is most commonly issued shortly after its original text is published. Patches to security issues in a computer program are also sometimes called errata.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
FAQs are listed questions and answers, sometimes grouped by category, that presuppose commonly asked questions (or by research and actual interaction) and provide best answers in an attempt to minimize Support or Sales interaction while improving customer satisfaction.
A functional specification is a formal document used to describe in detail for software developers a product’s intended capabilities, appearance, and interactions with users, while specifying the functions that a system or component must perform (often part of a requirements specification). Used in software development methodology known as “Waterfall” (as opposed to “Agile”).
A handbook is a type of reference work, or other collection of instructions, that is intended to provide ready reference. It is typically a small book that gives useful information about a particular subject structured for quick reference. For example, a guidebook for travelers.
Hardware Documentation includes everything from assembly instructions, hardware datasheets, illustrated parts lists, installation instructions, schematic diagrams, repair manuals, safety guidelines, user manuals.
Online help is topic-oriented, procedural or reference information delivered through computer software. It is a form of user assistance. Most online help is designed to give assistance in the use of a software application or operating system, but can also be used to present information on a broad range of subjects.
How-to Guide (“Mini Guide”)
“How To” guides are typically short (under 10 or so pages) and illustrated with drawings and photos throughout. They typically have a targeted audience and often (but not always) have a call to action (CTA) at the end for something to buy.
Installation Guide (Software)
A software installation guide provides step-by-step instructions for installing software onto a local or network computer or server and contains all necessary technical data to ensure success, including prerequisites and supporting software and hardware.
Installation Instructions contain detailed, step-by-step instructions for installing a device or piece of hardware. It includes parts and tools required and always includes illustrations and/or photos to help explain the installation process.
An instructional design is a booklet and slides supplied with consumer products such as vehicles, home appliances, computer peripherals, and so on, which contains written guidelines informing how to use it, as well as troubleshooting instructions and warranty information.
A Maintenance Guide (also called a Service Manual) provides procedures and guidelines for maintaining a device or system. It focuses on equipment, materials, techniques, and other information needed to carry out maintenance activities of the unit. Some Maintenance Guides are aimed at the end user/customer; others are designed to be used by licensed service professionals, with differing levels of detail and technical complexity.
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An owner’s manual is a book of information and instructions that a person receives along with the purchase of a particular product, advanced consumer products such as vehicles, home appliances and computer peripherals.
A Programmer’s Guide shows the details of how the language works and explaining why it works the way it does. A Programmer’s Guide covers the basic concepts, providing a foundation for programmers new to the language, as well as more advanced programming concepts and techniques.
Quick Reference Guide or Card
A Quick Reference Guide/Card (also known as simply a Reference Card) contains condensed information about a specific topic, such as commands and keys for a particular computer application, programming language, or for an appliance or device, or for a given topic such as Algebra, Chemistry, and so on. The guide can be a paper guide or can be online.
Quick Start Guide
A Quick Start guide is a short, simple introductory guide for understanding, and getting up to speed quickly with, a software product. It is aimed at the end user and is typically less than 50 pages long, most often in the 10 – 25 page range. (Not to be confused with a Quick Reference Guide, which is often just a single sheet of information, sometimes two-sided).
A README file contains information about other files in a directory or archive of computer software. A form of documentation, it is usually a simple plain text file called READ.ME or README.TXT. These days, the file is often just as well a PDF file or an HTML web page..
A Reference Guide, or manual, (sometimes called a “Systems Reference Manual” or a “Technical Reference Manual”) is a guide that contains information organized in a summary manner similar to a dictionary. References to, and descriptions of, such things as UI elements, report elements, and programming language elements are included.
Release Notes are documents that are distributed with software products, sometimes when the product is still in the development or test state (e.g., a beta release). For products that have already been in use by clients, the release note is delivered to the customer when an update is released.
A Repair Manual (sometimes called a Service Manual) is a book provided by the manufacturer with instructions on how to keep a vehicle, machine, etc. working properly at different points in its life. The manual covers the servicing, maintenance, and repair of the product.
Safety/Compliance Guidelines are advisory and informational in content. The guidelines are not new standards or regulations, but rather best practices concerning equipment or processes.
A Software Development Kit (SDK) Guide contains complete listings of all the classes, objects, methods, and functions available across all the parts of the software being called/integrated with. The intended audience is experienced programmers, ideally familiar with the product that the SDK was created for.
A Style Guide (or manual of style) is a set of standards for the writing and design of documents, either for general use or for a specific publication, organization, or field. It is often called a style sheet, though that term has other meanings. A style guide establishes and enforces style to improve communication.
Technical (Tech) Note
A Technical Note is a short article (a page or two) giving a brief description of a specific issue, problem, new feature or technique, or specific instructions not applicable to standard documentation (such as platform or device-specific instructions) or rare-case instructions.
A Technical Report (also known as a scientific report) describes the process, progress, and/or results (most typically, all three) of a research project. Recommendations and conclusions of the research are also often included.
A Technical Specification is a document that defines a set of requirements that a software application must meet or exceed. Items (features or functions) of an application that does not meet all of the specifically expressed requirements does not meet the specification, and often is referred to as being out of specification or “out of spec”.
User Guide/User Manual
A user guide or user’s guide, also commonly known as a manual, is a technical communication document intended to give assistance to people using a particular system.
A whitepaper is a persuasive, authoritative, in-depth report on a specific topic that presents a problem and provides a solution. While businesses create whitepapers to educate their market about a particular issue or explain and promote a particular methodology, they are basically marketing and sales collateral hidden behind an authoritative appearance.
A wiring guide contains instructions, illustrations, and warnings for wiring up equipment, appliances, and networks (although network wiring is more typically handled by a network guide). These guides typically contain few words, and many illustrations.
Over 50 types of Documentation & Manuals.
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