My favorite tool for technical writers (not ChatGPT)
Today no technical deep dive as I'm preparing something BIG for the coming weeks :)
Instead, I wanted to share what I consider to be the best tool that I use as a technical writer.
No, it's not a Large Language Model which will generate infinite crap that you can copy/paste to generate 40 Kindle ebooks per year.
After the announce that Adobe, one of the most evil company in the world, was about to buy Figma, one of the coolest product that I used to use, I actively looked for alternatives.
As a direct competitor there is Penpot which is Open Source, but I'm not comfortable using a service that has raised $$ Millions but does not charge (yet) for the product.
There also are drawing applications such as procreate on iOS, but I'm not a digital artist, and I actually dislike using a tablet and a pencil. Furthermore, as most of these apps are not Open Source, the risk of being bought by an evil big Corp remains.
Then I found THE gem: Excalidraw
Want to learn more about technical writing? Take a look at my book Technical Writer: 90 days to write, self-publish and sell your first technical book where I share everything I have learned the past 2 years.
Excalidraw allows you to easily create gorgeous illustrations, even if you are far from a graphical designer.
The app available at https://excalidraw.com is a Single Page Application working offline. It means that once you have visited the website, you can access your illustrations even without an internet connection. And of course, you can import / export your library of illustrations.
Excalidraw is Open Source: https://github.com/excalidraw/excalidraw which means that I will always be able to edit my illustrations, even if the developers stop working on it for any reason.
Another feature that I particularly appreciate is the keyboard shortcuts: Instead of having to slowly move your mouse out to select what kind of shape/object you want to insert on the canvas, and then move your mouse again on the canvas, you can simply hit a number on your keyboard. Thus, you can keep you your mouse in your area of work, greatly increasing your speed and reducing the risks of RSI.
Finally, they have Excalidraw +, which provide more features on top the free version of Excalidraw, such as collaboration for team, which is a good indicator that the project is sustainable and will not shutdown in the coming months.
Want to learn more about technical writing? Take a look at my book Technical Writer: 90 days to write, self-publish and sell your first technical book where I share everything I have learned the past 2 years..