I thought it would be helpful to write about the different document types I have encountered while working as a technical writer in various industries (environmental, telecommunications, medical software, medical communications, etc.).
I have made an attempt to define the documents based on my own ideas about them. The text in red was added in after googling the search term define: [document type].
White Paper: almost like a marketing piece / proposal type of document. Its purpose is to outline in great detail new technologies or existing technologies in order to present the information to some third party who usually has a stake in funding for that project. “Used to educate readers and help people make decisions.” “A purpose to educate industry customers.”
End-User Manual: aimed towards end-users of a software program or other piece of technology. The audience can vary in technical aptitude from absolute beginner to advanced.
Release Notes: outlines all new features of an updated version of software. Usually with a table of contents and brief paraphrase of all new features. From Wikipedia: “A release note is usually a terse summary or recent changes, enhancements and bug fixes in a particular software release.” “Not a substitute for user guides.”
FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions. A compilation of questions about a piece of software or a system in a question & answer format. Best if based on real life questions asked by customers / clients.
Data Sheet: OK, this one I haven’t actually ever had to do before……but it seems to keep popping up. So from Wikipedia: “A document summarizing the performance and other characteristics of a component (i.e. an electronic component), a sub system (i.e. a power supply) or software in sufficient detail to be used by a design engineer to design the component into a system.”
Online Video: These, I absolutely just love! A short segment, usually running from 3 to 6 minutes in length with a purpose to demonstrate / visually show how something works. This could be how to use a component of the software, how to carry out some kind of procedure or function, or really anything under the sun where the user could get a better idea by watching rather than reading about it.
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