Content Developers Toolkit

There are a variety of reasons why content would be created such as to entertain or teach. When I discuss content I am referring to any kind of material that people are going to use for help, best practices, a web page, white paper or a blog post. Basically a content developer creates material to be used.

I know there are a many tools out there to create the content I mention. I use tools based on a the following criteria:

  1. The tool performs the tasks I need with minimal workarounds. Sure there are less expensive tools out there, but how many workarounds do I need to get my task done? My time is valuable to me, so I want to ensure I use the tool I find to be most efficient and effective.
  2. Initially easy to use. The tool should initially be easy to use, but allow for greater flexibility. Photoshop is a pretty good example. You can easily perform basic editing such as cropping an image, or removing a portion of the image, but you can also get more creative with the tool if you need to.
  3. Reviewing #1 but accounting for cost. If there are two tools, and one does exactly what I want for $1,000, and the other tools does mostly what I want for $100 I need to evaluate the feature / price trade off. I don’t mind the trade off if it is for smaller features that I only use periodically, but people forget time is money. Why should I waste another 5 -10 hours a week to do workarounds because I bought the less expensive tool.

There are a variety of tools that you can use to create content, so I thought I would post what tools I use for content development. Here is a list of the types of tools I use:

  • Content Aggregator – store, sort and manage information
  • Screen Capture Utility- Capture images on you computer screen
  • Image Editor – Create and manipulate images
  • Document Editor – Create and revise Word documents
  • Presentation Editor – Create and revise presentations
  • Help Creation Utility – Create and manage help and knowledge base systems
  • Motion Capture Utility – Create simulations and software demonstrations

First off you need some kind of source for information. This could include a subject matter expert, technical papers, specs, reference material or the program or product itself for you to play with.

After you have access to the raw content you will first need some method to store information that you are gathering.

Content Aggregator – OneNote

You definitely need a program to store, search and manage your raw content. As you are looking for initial content, you may store what you find for later review. Using OneNote you can store text, graphics, web pages as well as a variety of other content.

During my initial collection phase I gather as much content as I can find, dumping it into OneNote as a I go. As I start outlining material I will create I can search and reference the content I have stored in Outlook.

I blog on multiple machines, so it is a little hard to use OneNote for that scenario – I need a program I can easily access and collaborate my content across multiple machines. In this instance I use an online tool such as Zoho Notebook.

Screen Capture Utility – SnagIt

It does what I want and more and at a reasonable price. It takes great screen captures. You can save the files in a variety of formats, and you can capture a variety of objects on the screen such as full screen, a specific window, a region or a scrolling window – web page.

Image Editor – Adobe Photoshop

An image editor is perfect for touching up screen shots, or images. Photoshop is my tool of choice for any image creation or editing. Photoshop is a powerful tool, that allows me to revise images as much as I need.

Document Editor – Microsoft Word

I think we are all pretty familiar with word. The creation and revision of text documents. Word is a pretty powerful document editor, and is a standard for any content developers toolkit.

Presentation Editor – Microsoft PowerPoint

There comes a time when you are going to need to create a presentation for training, stakeholder buy in, or to convey information of some kind. Remember your presentation should only contain a high level overview of your talk, if your talk is written word for word using PowerPoint why do you need to be there?

Help Creation Utility- RoboHelp

I use RoboHelp to build my help / knowledge systems.  You can create help using the standard Windows help format – Index / Search on the left, Topics / Information on the right. You can also save the content in different formats depending on your needs – online or desktop help. This tool can be used to create very engaging knowledge systems.

Motion Capture Utility (Screen) – Captivate

I use this tool to create simulations and software demonstrations. You can perform a video capture of your computer monitor, and then associate text and audio with the presentation for a thorough demonstration of an application.

Summary

I have used the tools I have outlined above to create professional training, presentations, software demonstrations and simulations. I use most of these utilities every day and would have trouble creating content as quickly and professionally without them.

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