Same Technical Writer, Same Company, New Boss
As expected, I wrapped up the PDF and Acrobat branding updates well ahead of schedule. While it is good for your reputation to finish early, it is not necessarily good for your bank account. The two people who hired me did not have another assignment for me. Luckily, I had made friends with a technical writer whose team badly needed another person. Because of this, I managed to stay in the same company, but I switched bosses.
The manager of the new department works in another city. I have only spoken to the man once. For all my daily activities, the writer I made friends with is my supervisor. In fact, due to company rules, he had to take a class in how to manage a contractor. This company has many rules about what contractors can and cannot do, and he is responsible for making sure I do not cross any lines.
Switching bosses within the same company is not an entirely smooth process. On the day of the crossover, I showed up to work and discovered my badge and my email deactivated. It took most of the day to get security to reactivate my accounts.
FrameMaker and FrameScript
My first project under the new supervisor was similar to my last project, but with an increased level of complexity. Once again, a set of established documentation was going through a branding update. This time, however, the changes were more far-reaching. Because of the branding update, dozens of product names were changing. In addition, the documents I would work on were all written with FrameMaker, and many of the changes were contained in variables rather than regular text.
My supervisor decided that he needed to take advantage of this change and implement a standard set of variables across the platform. This meant that I did not just need to look for incorrect brand identifications; I also needed to change many variables that contained the right information, but an outdated variable name.
FrameMaker and FrameScript
One tool that made this project easier was a third-party scripting program for FrameMaker. This program, aptly named FrameScript, allowed us to automate many of the variable changes. Still, most of the work required me to search for the outdated variables and replace them within the documents. I also needed to search for any outdated text or graphic references.
Technical Writing Procedure
One of the nice things about this project was that my supervisor had started it, and he had taken the time to write a procedure for doing the work. This gave me a leg up on the process, even though I eventually started making minor modifications to the procedure as I began to find easier ways to handle the job. One of the advantages of working with technical writers is that they will often write down what they are doing for future reference.
Updating Technical Documents
Updating documents provides a major portion of the work available to technical writers. While it is more fun (and more challenging) to write a set of documents from scratch, the truth is that there are not very many new products coming out, especially in the computer industry. Far more often, a product is an update of something that has already been developed.