My COVID-19 Tech Stack: It’s all about Communications and Collaboration

During the pandemic, I’ve been fine-tuning my personal technology stack the whole time. My personal attitude about apps is that the application work for me, I don’t work for the application. So while I’m the first person to experiment with a new application, it needs to be easy to use.

Here’s how my current pandemic tech stack looks:

Continue reading “My COVID-19 Tech Stack: It’s all about Communications and Collaboration”

3 remote technical writer lessons

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

I’ve become sort of a student of remote working because of my freelancing and consulting work. A special area of interest is the changes (both good and bad) in dynamics and project management that sometimes occur when a remote technical writer joins the team.

While this post speaks more about remote technical writing projects, you may find that you’ve bumped up against one or more of these things while working as a remote writer:

Microsoft Office might just be your Frenemy

While some may color me a “Microsoft Office fanboy”, Microsoft Office is ubiquitous in my local marketplace so I’ve had to make it work to get my job done. As a remote writer, you may have to contend with file corruptions, template issues, and sundry document format and versioning issues all on your own. A couple of document versions put together with bad habits may mean your remote writing project becomes more of a font fondling exercise in (re)formatting the document. My advice is t do your best to own all facets of the document you are writing including the template and document management.

Out of sight shouldn’t be out of Mind

Writing projects especially those of the technical writing persuasion are usually lowest on the project manager’s list of priorities but still rank as a line item on a project schedule. It’s important to keep your writing project from falling off the project manager’s radar. You can do this by actively participating in team status calls; making your presence known through IM sessions; and doing what you can so you and your writing project(s) make project milestones and get the attention and resources they need to complete successfully.

Like it or not you are a project manager

Whether you are an employee, contractor, or freelancer working remotely, project management is part of your responsibilities whether explicitly or not. Too often writing projects can be ignored and you have to implement your own project management and communications strategy. Then again, if your experience has been anything like mine, you’ve found that there are a lot of managers who don’t understand what it takes to deliver a writing project. If you find yourself strapped with a manager like this, expect an education exercise at best and at worst keep a paper trail of your communications with management.

These are only a few things that came to mind based upon my own experience and discussions with clients and professional colleagues.

What lessons have you learned from remote writing projects?


Hey there! My name is Will Kelly. I’m a technical writer and content development manager living and working in the Washington, DC area. After spending years focusing on technical and SDLC documentation, much of my work now focuses on thought leadership content and marketing collateral. My articles have been published by DevOps Agenda, Mobile Business Insights, TechBeacon, CNET TechRepublic, and others. Follow me on Twitter: @willkelly.

3 Microsoft Word template decisions to avoid


Microsoft Word templates can be an incredible productivity tool. Templates ensure a consistent look and feel across your documents. Using a template frees you up to focus on other things about the document you are writing.

Yet, Microsoft Word templates can also be a productivity sinkhole if you aren’t careful. If you don’t put some thought into how you manage and use the template.

Here are three Microsoft Word Templates you should always avoid:

  • Don’t deviate from default style names. It’s OK to create templates from scratch but for styles like headings and others that are common across documents, I recommend not deviating from the default style names. It is ok to modify them to your heart’s content, but deviating from default style names can pose problems later when you want to update the document template like during a rebranding. Sticking to default style names whenever possible means when attaching a new template. Sticking to such style names is also helpful because they are what people are used to working with if they pay attention to style names at all.
  • Don’t forget to attach the template. Working as a technical writer puts me into contact with a lot of legacy Microsoft Office documents — often times with no sign of the original template (*.dot) — raising a number of sundry issues like styles “shifting in flight” thus appearing differently on different user’s PCs. When working with clients encountering MS Word document issues, no template attached to the document is almost always on the list.
  • Don’t “Iron Man” your document styles. One of the marks of a poorly planned document template is missing styles. causing users to make modifications to document styles manually (otherwise known as “iron man”). Such modifications can introduce inconsistencies plus stray styles into your MS Word template that will haunt writers who inherit the document for generations to come. The advice I often give to clients about Word templates is to keep them simple especially if the organization doesn’t have a full time writer dedicated to the project or the documents are being shipped around to non-writers a lot.

What are your tips for managing and using MS Word templates? Share them below.


My name is Will Kelly. I’m a technical writer and content strategist living and working in the Washington, DC area. My current focus is thought leadership and technical marketing content. I got my start writing user guides, administrator documentation, online help, and later moved into SDLC documentation. My articles about enterprise mobility, BYOD, and other technology topics have been published by IBM Mobile Business Insights, Samsung Business Insights, TechBeacon, CNET TechRepublic, and others. Follow me on Twitter: @willkelly.

Building the Microsoft Word skills of non-writers in your organization


Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of non-writers such as solution architects, trainers, instructional designers, and project managers. Often it meant coaching them through technical writing tasks and fixing their Microsoft Word issues.

The experiences have given me insight into how regular folks use Microsoft Office. Even with templates in place for each major document type, there’s no way escaping the need for non-writers to have a base set of MS Word skills if writing is part of their duties.

I know the attitude out there in some corners that MS Office skills are assumed for many positions. Experience has shown me that assuming MS Office skills to a level required for producing external customer documents isn’t always the case.Here is what I consider base level MS Word skills that a document author needs to work with templates and produce technical documents:

  • Formatting text with styles. One of the base level skills any document author needs is how to use styles to format document text and other major elements. It is a productivity saver and styles can help ensure consistency across multiple documents and authors.
  • Generating and regenerating a table of contents, list of tables & list of figures. I’ve come across more than one table of contents in my time that the previous author input by hand. While the actual table of contents, list of tables, and list of figures.
  • Managing page breaks and section breaks. I always seem to field a lot of questions about section breaks wherever I go as a technical writer. While the template should be governing section breaks, I believe that authors need to understand how to create section breaks so they can fix them if they ever break. Using page breaks is helpful when an author has to paginate a document.

These skills need to be level set if an organization insists on thrusting non-writers into writing roles. My current thinking is that the base level of Word skills I outline in this post even should come before turning non-writers onto templates and the actual document authoring. Getting these skills down is right for their productivity and the sanity of those around them who may inherit their documents further down the development and review cycle.

Do non-writers tasked to work on documents need a base level of Word skills?


My name is Will Kelly. I’m a technical writer and content strategist living and working in the Washington, DC area. My current focus is thought leadership and technical marketing content. I got my start writing user guides, administrator documentation, online help, and later moved into SDLC documentation. My articles about enterprise mobility, BYOD, and other technology topics have been published by IBM Mobile Business Insights, Samsung Business Insights, TechBeacon, CNET TechRepublic, and others. Follow me on Twitter: @willkelly.

Does Microsoft Office need an evangelist inside your enterprise?

Image from Microsoft News Center

Often Microsoft Office suffers from a lack of credit (and support) despite the fact that it’s at the core of many business processes. It’s easy to brush it off as being Office.

It’s important to consider that Microsoft Office as an application suite continues to grow from its humble beginnings as bundled desktop applications to a business front end for knowledge workers.

One of the must humbling projects in my career was at a major federal government agency that was upgrading to a new version of Microsoft Office. I got to see firsthand how Microsoft Office impacts the day to day jobs of workers at all levels of the agency. I saw even a simple change in the product could stop some users cold in their tracks. After that contract, I’ve had to tackle Microsoft Office adoption and user issues on other contracts. I still wonder if Microsoft Office needs its own evangelist

Here are five reasons why Microsoft Office needs an evangelist:

  1. Promote the use of sharing and collaboration tools. The Outlook inbox has been the primary tool for sharing and collaboration in many organizations. Now sharing documents through SharePoint or OneDrive, means many users need guidance for new workflows.
  2. Promote the use of new features in the applications. With each new release of Offices comes productivity enhancements. When a new Microsoft Office release hits corporate desktops, there needs to be someone to work with the users to adopt new features.
  3. Evangelize OneNote and its potential uses in the enterprise. OneNote has a lot of uses inside an organization such as collaborative note-taking. You can even use OneNote for publishing team policies and procedures. While OneNote as part of the Office suite speaks to a bright future for the application, users may still ignore it because of they’. Before, you had to buy OneNote separately meaning it was a rare occasion to see it on corporate PCs.
  4. Standardize templates and macros. The term “template” can get thrown around pretty liberally when it comes to Microsoft Office document. An internal champion for Microsoft Office can assist with template creation. They can also help with template management. An Office evangelist can be a big big help to Office users locked in a vicious cycle of cut and paste corrupt document hell.
  5. Guide mobile users to Microsoft Office. Being able to access Office documents from Android and iOS devices is bound to be a productivity tool for some users. A Microsoft Office evangelist can help lead the move of Microsoft Office users to the mobile apps. They can become a trainer and an advocate for taking Office apps off the desktop.
  6. Ensure Microsoft Office document security. If your organization sends documents to external parties, it makes sense to secure the document data. Somebody needs to educate document writers and publishers about document security.

Do you have a Microsoft Office Evangelist inside your enterprise?


Hi! My name is Will Kelly. I’m a technical writer and analyst based in the Washington, DC area. I’ve worked with clients like NetApp, Dell, and Neustar to develop technical, training, and thought leadership content. My articles have been published by IBM Mobile Business Insights, TechBeacon, CNET TechRepublic, Network World, Toolbox.com, ZDNet.com, and others. Follow me on Twitter:@willkelly.