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FrameMaker – a justification

Although this text was written 2001 it is still valid in 2009. FrameMaker has only a competition by InDesign and ArborText. MS Word became even more a tool to design greeting cards.

SIS calling for justification of FrameMaker

Dear Terry,

To be honest: I am tired of justifying the use of FrameMaker for technical documentation. It is simply the tool of the trade.

In short: Professionals use professional tools.

The fact that MS Word is available on nearly every desk does not qualify it for all types of work. It is designed for office work which in most cases are one-shot documents, period. Of course one can repair a motor car with just a screw driver and a hammer, if neither time nor the quality of the outcome matters and nobody will be forced to repair (update) this thing in the future...


Some quotes out of a myriad

[2001-04-24] There are tools in FrameMaker that are far more useable and 'revision-friendly' than in Word. For example, Word has a function called 'Bookmarks' which allows you to write a piece of text and then refer to it by inserting a 'Ref' field. This results in that text only being written once but by 'Referencing' it, it can appear anywhere else you choose in a document. When you change the 'Bookmarked' text, all other references to that text changes also.

This, I'm sure sounds good, but the process required to set this up is not quick and easy unless you write a small macro, but in FrameMaker, most of the laborious work is already done. You create a variable, assign the desired text to the variable, then quickly insert the variable where ever you choose. It sounds exactly the same process, but The FrameMaker version is far quicker.

That's just one small example, and advantage, when writing the original document. This function also allows for quicker updates if used correctly and can cut translation costs as often, in the translation industry, the Word version of the text is costed at each occurance, whereas the FrameMaker version is usually not (generally, this is a result of the tools used to cost the translation of the text, this is something you should confirm with the translation supplier if your documents are to undergo translation).

Personally, I think the debate is potentially endless. But I would strongly recommend FrameMaker as the standard tool for technical documentation primarily designed for print. FrameMaker is made by Adobe (who also make Acrobat, Photoshop and Illustrator, which are genrally accepted industry standards within their fields).

Ian Farr-Williams, Proposals Manager, Reliance Integrated Services Limited

[2001-01-16] I run a very small (as in one person only) company that specializes in research, primarily legal in nature. The only reason I use Word is for customers who want original files with the finished job.

The automation in Word, even when turned off as much as it can be, is the biggest problem for my work. I simply cannot afford assumptions about any aspect of the finished product. Framemaker allows me to do it my way, without automation or the attendant assumptions. Yes it is harder to learn but for me easier to produce consistent quality.

"Jeff" <iratus, home, com>

[2001-01-16] The biggest benefit of FrameMaker as opposed to Word is that it works with very few exceptions. Word does not work in a large number of cases, no matter what you do. There are few smaller (but still substantial) benefits, but they pale by comparison.

FrameMaker gives you what you specified, Word tries to give you what it thinks you wanted, which in non-trivial cases is unlikely to be what you actually wanted.

Jan Henning, Rosemann & Lauridsen GmbH, DE

[1999-05- 24] Few things are more frustrating for a professional than to be forced to use the wrong tools. Just as a sculpture would not use a dull chisel, a publishing professional will balk at having to use a word processing application to create a long document. An application designed for letter writing will easily fail under the stress of creating book-lenth documents...

MS Word is the best-selling word processing application in the corporate world. For many authors, MS Word is to long documents what a pair of pliers is to a chest of wrenches: Adequate, but frustrating in its limitations.

Carl L Young, Seniour consultant, DigiPub Solutions Corp. Phoenix, AZ in "Choosing the right Tool for long Document Creation, a White Paper".

[1999-04-05] Writers, especially technical writers, have to produce many different kinds of documents (letters, specifications, data sheets, white papers, brochures, reference manuals and users guides, etc.) in many different kinds of formats (printed, HTML, online help, electronic publishing, etc.). Often the same text must be published in several formats. Is there a “one tool–one source” solution available? Is it possible to write once and publish many times?

Asking “Which is better: Word or FrameMaker?” is the same as asking “Which is better: a fork or a spoon?” Obviously, the task at hand has some bearing on the answer. Dinner tables are set with both forks and spoons, so there is apparently some appropriate use for each of these tools. People buy and use both FrameMaker and Word — many writers have both installed on their computers — so there is apparently some appropriate use for each of these tools as well.

Alex Ragen, <alex, checkpoint, com>

[1999-08] The Bottom Line: While Word is a good, well-established product, I believe that FrameMaker is the better tool to simplify our long document process. It will save us money and time, increase our productivity, and, ultimately, have a positive effect on our bottom line.

Chris King, RIMS, Inc. <ctk, rims, com> in "FrameMaker vs. Word, an Analysis".

[2001-02-05] I have done 250-page user guides in Word, but I spent an awful lot of time not writing or doing layout but fixing formatting problems and working around bugs. Because these mostly related to production tasks outside Word's 'comfort zone', they added a lot of extra time and pressure at the very end of the project when time was the tightest. I've said before on this list that my first manual in Frame (no training, no experienced colleagues on hand) went more smoothly than any of the manuals I'd done in Word.

So I'd say that it's _possible_ to do long manuals in a WP, but the bigger and more complex the book the more non-productive overhead there'll be. I'd have few qualms about doing a simple 70-page manual in Word (though it would still be faster in Frame). If necessary I could do a very simple 300-page manual in Word, but as a contractor I'd have to add something like 20% to my estimated hours just to allow for extra proof-reading, reformatting and bug-fixing.

"Stuart Burnfield" <stuartb, tpg, com, au>

A few pointers on the subject

http://www.freeframers.org/inframe/archive/files/vol1/1-2/1-2.htm (verified 2009-06-09), in particular this Paper by Alex Ragan, 1999 .

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 URL:  Created: 2009-06-09  Updated:
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