July 18, 2024

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Technical Writing – Components Of Windows User Interface In Software Documentation (1) – Desktop

Technical Writing – Components Of Windows User Interface In Software Documentation (1) – Desktop

Software documentation is an important sub-specialty within the larger discipline of Technical Writing and Communication. User interface documentation, together with procedural writing, is one of the important tasks in software documentation. It’s a task that needs to be performed very well, consistently, and with no ambiguity since procedural writing builds on a solid foundation of user interface information.

A clear definition of every user interface component is the building block that a technical writer needs to put in place before attempting to do any procedural writing. Procedural manuals that contain using interface inconsistencies never work.

So here are some of the basic and industry-standard definitions that you should stick to in your documentation:

NOTE: Windows, Mac and Linux machines all have different user interfaces, depending on the particular Operating System (OS) (or “distribution” in the case of Linux) installed on your machine. In this series of articles we’ll be addressing the Windows interface only, which is numerically the most widely used interface all around the world.

DESKTOP is the first screen that you look at when you log in to your computer. If you have XP OS installed, for example, that would be the screen displaying that lovely green field with fluffy clouds above. That would be your default desktop picture although you can change it anything you want.

This desktop would display ICONS, the graphic representations of the programs (or shortcuts to those programs), files, and folders which are saved on your hard disk.

Every icon would have a short LABEL underneath to identify it.

At the bottom of the desktop, you’d have a horizontal bar, the correct name of which is the TASK BAR.

The TASK BAR has several components/regions. The most important is the prominent START BUTTON on the leftmost corner which, when click, displays the START MENU. Start Menu is the getaway to all the other files and programs on your computer.

To the right of the Star button, you’d have the QUICK LAUNCH BAR which includes the icons of the most frequently used programs (called “application” on a Mac machine).

To the right of the Quick Launch Bar, you’d have APPLICATION BUTTON icons, each representing a program open and running on your machine.

On the rightmost corner of the Task Bar is the NOTIFICATION AREA which includes the icons various processes. For example if you have an anti-virus program running to protect your computer, you would have its icon displayed in this Notification Area. If you are connected or fail to have connected to a network, another icon will notify you of the fact.

We’ll continue with our survey of Windows user interface components in our next article in this series.