Re: The Old Argument--Frame vs. Word

Subject: Re: The Old Argument--Frame vs. Word
From: "Curtis Brautigam" <curtisb -at- nurserysupplies -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L digest" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2000 08:09:28 -0500

Since the issue of Frame vs. Word has been raised on this listserv, let me
get my two cents worth. It is not a question of which product is superior.
It depends on the purposes for which you plan to use the product. I have
used both products extensively.

Word's advantage is that it is probably the best all-around word processor
on the market today. In addition, Word is a very versatile product; you can
generate all kinds of documents on Word: academic research reports, legal
briefs, short letters and memos, newsletters, and yes, technical
documentation. Word is also relatively easy to use, it is much cheaper than
FrameMaker, and you can use it as part of a network. It has some features
that FrameMaker just doesn't have, most notably the multiple Undo function.
However, Word has a lot of disadvantages: page layout, template creation,
generating tables, handling graphics (especially in Word 97). It seems that
each new version of Word is loaded with its own particular bugs--Word 6
(bullets and numbering), Word 7 (adjustment of margins), and Word 97 (its
graphics handling capability is worse than its predecessors). Even though
you can use Word to create technical documentation, I find it more difficult
to handle in this area than FrameMaker.

When it comes to the purpose of creating technical documentation, I prefer
FrameMaker over Word. Once you get over FrameMaker's long learning curve, it
becomes a very powerful tool. When it comes to functions such as page
layout, template creation, generating tables, TOCs, and indexes, bullets and
numbering, and handling of graphics, Frame is vastly superior to Word.
Furthermore, you can convert Frame documents into PDF much easier than with
Word (having the same manufacturer make both Frame and Acrobat helps). There
are bugs in FrameMaker, but I find it less buggy than Word. I would not use
FrameMaker for academic writing or for creating newsletters (PageMaker is
best for that), but when it comes to technical documentation, I don't know
of anything better. FrameMaker's disadvantages are that you cannot do the
multiple Undo function, it is very expensive, it is harder to use than Word,
and it is a premier stand-alone product.

Ever since I learned how to use FrameMaker, my version of Word seems be
collecting dust on my computer. I only use Word to create non-technical
documents. As far as our job descriptions are concerned, yes, we are
technical writers. If I want to do academic or legal writing, I would stick
to Word; FrameMaker is useless for such tasks. If I want to generate
newsletters or sales brochures, I would use PageMaker or Quark. However, as
technical communicators, we also have to present the information in an
esthetically pleasing way--this is where our graphics and DTP skills come
into play. For this, FrameMaker comes in very handy.

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