That Was The Week That Was
My main background task decided it no longer wanted to hide away in the shadows and instead burst out and took over my entire working week. I blame myself, but it was a long and repetitive task that I decided had to be finished asap - even if that meant hours and hours and hours of drudgery and repetition, replication and reiteration.

Still it could have been worse: I could have been using another tool: Confluence has a habit of making the dullest job rewarding.

Big Thanks!
I'd like to thank Andrew Frayling for his comment about how to make using shortcuts even faster and simpler in last week's blog. If you're a more advanced user, you'll find his blog fascinating and helpful.

Start Your Editor
I've talked a little in previous posts about writing and working within Confluence's editor, but I haven't really said much about the editing environment itself. So in this week's blog, I'll focus on some of it's functionality and the benefits it has for technical writers over more traditional tool such as MS Word.

The first has to be sheer ease of use, starting with opening the editor in the first place. If you're familiar with Confluence you'll know there's the big, hard-to-miss and very easy-to-click-on Edit button in the toolbar. Ignore it, it's not needed. You want to start 
editing? Just press the 'E' key and hey presto, you're there. 

I know, ridiculously simple and perhaps not worth all the song and a dance. But it is, because it demonstrates the detailed level of thinking Atlassian put in when they designed it. I.e., the user experience was upper most in their minds. This is very important because even now there are far too many software houses who forget to consider the user. I know this is true because I have to use such software on a daily basis. And I hate it.

So you've opened the editor and want to start writing, but you want to start by adding a heading on the page (as opposed to the page's heading). Which means formatting it. You could take the easy route and slide your mouse up to formatting the drop down list in the toolbar - but let's face it, your hands are already on the keyboard and your mouse is far, far away. In fact you know the whole operation of grabbing and using the mouse is very s  l  o  w. 

So why bother? Especially when you can create the heading you want just by typing it into the Editor? All you have to do is enter the heading code, press space and enter your title text. For example:
The heading's code uses the following elements:
  • h - always lower case.
  • 1 - this is the heading level, so you could also use h2, h3 etc.
  • a full stop - this has to be immediately after the number.
  • a space - this effectively tells Confluence that what you've just entered is markup that needs to be converted.
The moment you press the space bar, the 'h1.' code disappears, and when you enter your heading, it uses the built-in CSS formating for Heading 1. All gloriously simple and very fast.

And there are tons of other labour-saving, speed-inducing devices in the editor. For example:
  • for bullets, enter an asterisk at the start of the line and start typing.
  • for a numbered list, enter '1' at the start of the line and start typing.
If you want to insert a non-numbered line into a numbered list, all you have to to is, at the end of a line of numbered text, press Shift+Return. You can then enter a normal line of text. However, when you press Return, the next line will be a numbered line that follows on from the last one. If you don't want that to happen, the keep using Shift+Return until you do.

Better, Faster, Stronger
There are many things you can do in the editor ranging from adding links to internal and external pages, using graphics, charts and videos. The possiblities are almost endless: I'll talk about more of 
these in future blogs.

From Fact to Fiction
There now follows a shameless plug for my fiction writing...

I'm happy to tell you that my first novel, The Darkness Beneath, is now available as an eBook from Amazon (.com and .co.uk). It's a gothic tale of death and destruction in London's underground railway system. 

Written with more than a passing nod towards the best of the Hammer horror and vampire films, you can download it in seconds for the very modest sum of $1.99 right now.
Cheers.



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