Software documentation is a distinct specialty within the larger discipline of Technical Writing. It’s a world with its own rules, processes and lingo.
We’re continuing with our series on the software industry terms you should be familiar with as a technical writer…
Firmware – Firmware is a piece of software that is burnt into hardware.
For example, your microwave oven comes with a firmware already embedded into its microchip. That’s how it knows when to start heating your pizza, when to stop; when to switch on the ventilation fan and when to switch it off; when to add another 30 seconds of heating time; what to do when you push the button that reads “TV Dinner” or “Popcorn” etc.
All cellular phones, VCRs, cameras, and every electronic gadget you can think of these days comes with its own “firmware.”
A technical writer who has to document such a gadget has to interact with its firmware and understand how it works.
Bug / Debug – A “bug” is a code error that causes the software program not to act the way it’s supposed to, or to just crash. “Debugging” is the process and method through which the code is cleaned from such bugs, repaired, and restored to “health.”
Specs / Specifications – “Specs” is a term you hear very frequently in a software environment although it’s not unique to computer industry.
Every industry has its own specs since the term refers to the detailed technical definition of a component, attribute or a function.
If, for example, you’re manufacturing alarm clocks, the “functional spec” of the clock usually includes the temperature range in which the gadget is supposed to work.
A “marketing spec” includes the end-user functions that the software product is expected to deliver to the market.