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In engineering, technical documentation refers to any type of documentation that describes handling, functionality and architecture of a technical product or a product under development or use. The intended recipient for product technical documentation is both the (proficient) end user as well as the administrator / service or maintenance technician. In contrast to a mere "cookbook" manual, technical documentation aims at providing enough information for a user to understand inner and outer dependencies of the product at hand.
If technical writers are employed by the technology company, their task is to translate the usually highly formalized or abbreviated technical documentation produced during the development phase into more readable, "user-friendly" prose.
The documentation accompanying a piece of technology is often the only means by which the user can fully understand said technology; regardless, technical documentation is often considered a "necessary evil" by software developers. Consequently, the genre has suffered from what some industry experts lament as a lack of attention and precision. Writing and maintaining documentation involves many technical and non-technical skills, and this work is often not enjoyed or rewarded as much as writing and maintaining code.
Forms of technical documentation may include:
- specifications of item or of components/materials
- data sheets of item or of components/materials
- test methods
- manufacturing standards
During system life-cycle a multitude of document types will play a significant role:
- system requirements
- system architecture
- system design documents and data including those necessary for the system development, testing, manufacturing, operation and maintenance
and various intermediate or intervening documents thereof.
Standardization of forms
Traditionally, most forms of technical documentation have lacked recognized standards, though this is changing. So far, ISO has published a series of standards related to technical product documentations and these are covered by ICS 01.110. The ones that are not covered by ICS 01.110 are listed in the subsection below.
Formats for source data
- Document management system
- Method engineering
- Network documentation
- Technical communication
- Technical editing
- Technical file
- What is "technical documentation"? at Transcom.de. Accessed February 25, 2013.
- What is Technical Documentation? Archived 2013-04-18 at Archive.today at Tetras Translations. Accessed February 25, 2013.
- Documenting the New System at IGCSE ICT. Accessed February 25, 2013.
- The Documentation Scene by John Mobbs. Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators, Monday, July 23, 2012.
- Geiger, R. Stuart; Varoquaux, Nelle; Mazel-Cabasse, Charlotte; Holdgraf, Chris (2018-05-29). "The Types, Roles, and Practices of Documentation in Data Analytics Open Source Software Libraries". Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW). 27 (3–6): 767–802. arXiv:1805.12398. doi:10.1007/s10606-018-9333-1. ISSN 0925-9724.
- "01.110: Technical product documentation". International Organization for Standardization. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
- "ISO 15787:2001 Technical product documentation -- Heat-treated ferrous parts -- Presentation and indications". International Organization for Standardization. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
- "ISO 3098-0:1997 Technical product documentation -- Lettering -- Part 0: General requirements". International Organization for Standardization. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
- "ISO 10209-1:1992 Technical product documentation -- Vocabulary -- Part 1: Terms relating to technical drawings: general and types of drawings". International Organization for Standardization. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
- "ISO 2162-1:1993 Technical product documentation -- Springs -- Part 1: Simplified representation". International Organization for Standardization. Retrieved 10 June 2009.
- "ISO 5457:1999 Technical product documentation -- Sizes and layout of drawing sheets". International Organization for Standardization. Retrieved 10 June 2009.