Autodesk has some great documentation people

The most heavily commented post on this blog is AutoCAD 2013 – An Autodesk Help writer responds, featuring Dieter Schlaepfer‘s response to posts and comments here about AutoCAD 2013’s Help. I don’t always agree with Dieter but I respect him enormously, and not just because he was brave enough to stick his head above the parapet in a hostile environment. Dieter is a principal technical writer at Autodesk with many years’ experience and is therefore responsible for large amounts of documentation content. You’ve almost certainly read his work.

I’ve been critical of AutoCAD’s Help system since it was broken in 2011, and I make no apologies for that. The Help system sucked then, it sucked even worse in 2013, and it continues to suck badly in 2017. None of that’s Dieter’s fault. It’s the Help engine that’s at fault, or to be more accurate the Help engines, because the online and offline engines still both suck in various ways. Clearly there’s someone important at Autodesk satisfied with the ongoing Help engine awfulness, but that’s not Dieter. He’s responsible for content, not the engine. Content isn’t the problem. The content is actually very good, and gradually improving as Dieter finds ways to do so. It’s just that the system for accessing that content is so terrible that not many people get to read much of it these days, which is a crying shame.

I digress. Dieter’s awesome.

Also awesome is Lee Ambrosius, who does a great job with developer documentation. That job’s less visible, but still very important and performed to an excellent standard. Lee is very technically knowledgeable and understands users, developers and their documentation requirements. Within the confines of the systems he’s forced to work with, Lee has done the very best job it would be possible for anyone to do.

Everybody knows Lynn Allen, of course. Not just an entertaining and engaging presenter at AU and a thousand smaller gatherings, she has been producing beautifully prepared tips-and-tricks and what’s-new articles, posts and documents for so long she must surely have been a toddler when she started. The value of Lynn to Autodesk and its customers is hard to calculate, but is clearly immense.

Last but not least, Heidi Hewett has done an exemplary job for many years in producing preview guides, posts and other documents. You don’t get to see some of them because they are confined to pre-release testers, but I assure you that they are done to the same high standard as the ones that go public.

The work of our illustrious foursome and other talented writers can be found on the AutoCAD Blog and I’m sure my readers will find something of use there.

5 Comments

  1. Agree pretty much Steve, especially with your comments on the personnel responsible for the content. One thing I would like to see is more use of hyperlinks.

    On each of the following random page examples, there are commands and/or sysvars mentioned, but no hyperlinks to them:

    http://help.autodesk.com/view/ACD/2017/ENU/?guid=GUID-B93A458E-1A7F-4090-A8CF-87A31C24E404

    http://help.autodesk.com/view/ACD/2017/ENU/?guid=GUID-3FD011D0-2AB5-4C46-8302-19F91DD2EC87

    http://help.autodesk.com/view/ACD/2017/ENU/?guid=GUID-61152026-7B55-42F1-80F6-4EF228EA0BA7

  2. Dieter Schlaepfer

    On behalf of Lee, Lynn, Heidi, and myself (plus many unsung, but dedicated professionals at Autodesk), thank you! Your kind words are encouraging and very much appreciated!

    R.K. – Yes, in general we can not longer use hyperlinks embedded in topic text. The sections within a topic that do contain hyperlinks (Related Concepts, Related Tasks, and Related Reference) are all managed in DITA map tables. Your suggestion of adding hyperlinks to the topics covering new, changed, and obsolete commands (in your first example) might be possible with a different DITA template. This is a great suggestion and I’ll look into it.

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