SUMMARY: FrameMaker vs PageMaker vs Word

Subject: SUMMARY: FrameMaker vs PageMaker vs Word
From: "Scudder, Beth" <beth_scudder -at- retek -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 24 Mar 2000 16:02:17 -0600

Thanks to everyone who responded. I was asked for a summary, and this is as
close as it gets. It's actually more of a compilation of all of the answers
I received, generally still in the original author's words.

Summary of the dilemma:

* My company makes software.
* My department delivers WinHelp, PDFs or print files, and web
documents in HTML.
* To produce those deliverables, we use, respectively, RoboHelp, Word,
and DreamWeaver.
* We use Word as the primary tool. We use a lot of templates. I'm the
editor. I get to manage and create the templates.
* I'm hating the problems I've had with Word, especially with its
template problems. I think some of these problems might be alleviated by
moving to a different desktop publishing program.
* My boss has, in the past, acted as though the idea of using
FrameMaker or any desktop publishing program other than Word was absurd and
ridiculous. I have not had a chance to talk to her seriously about the
reason for this reaction.
* I had heard a rumor that RoboHelp only worked with Word, and that
was one of the reasons why we'd stuck with it.
* I want to propose using FrameMaker or some other desktop publishing
program to replace Word, especially for the PDF/print medium, in which we
deliver manuals that are hundreds of pages long and fairly complex.
* When I make that proposal, I want facts and strong arguments.

The suggestions offered:

* From Maggie Secara [SECARAM -at- mainsaver -dot- com]:
It seems to me that the very fact the boss is chuckling
means she wouldn't mind being asked. It's in fact the ideal situation for
asking about her reasoning. I'd say, don't be timid. Ask her! Not
dramatically or anything, Just mention it again, lightly as before, and
when she starts to laugh, say "I take it you've been through this discussion
before" or something like that, and let her tell you about it. You can even
mention that this is an on-going wrangle among your techwr-l buddies. At
least, that's what I'd do. Of course, I'm not there and I can't guage your
developing relationship with your boss, but that's how I treat mine :)
* From Mark Dempsey [mxd2 -at- osi -dot- com]:
Frame 6.0 is supposed to have Webworks included, so it'll
output real HTML for RoboHTML, if that's what's needed.
* From Renee L. LaPlume [rlaplume -at- flexstornet -dot- com]:
Can't answer [whether other programs than Word will work
with RoboHelp), but I do know that Quadralay WebWorks can be used with
FrameMaker in a similar manner to how RoboHELP is used with Word.

Is it really that you "can't" ask the boss about this, or
that you feel discouraged from asking? I don't mean
this in a judgmental way, but maybe it's just a matter of
finding a way to ask about this in a sort of offhand,
neutral way, or using good judgment as to the timing of your
question, or being creative with how you find out
more (e.g., ask another staffer who's been there awhile to
clue you in the boss's view of Frame, then proceed
based on that insight). Perhaps the history of this
organization includes an episode where a bad experience
was had by all when attempting to use Frame. (How's that for
passive voice? ;)

[I had asked] Is there any hope for change in this situation
on the horizon?
Don't know... depends on the manager's open-mindedness,
among other factors, I would guess. If she's been burned
once, for whatever reason, she may be gunshy about trying
again.
[Incidentally, the situation about which my unspecific
question was meant to ask was that of RoboHelp only working with Word. The
above answer was still a good point, though.]
* From Melanie Shook [mshook -at- com2001 -dot- com]:
As far as I know, RoboHelp only works with Word, so you may
be stuck. Unless you were to move to another whole set of tools. RoboHelp
is pretty expensive. The cost of Frame + mif2go/WWP would probably be
similar, and you wouldn't need DreamWeaver, because you could use Frame +
mif2go/WWP to create WinHelp, HTML, PDF, and print.
The angle I think you should use is *saving time*! How much
time do you spend correcting problems due to Word (corrupted templates,
etc.)? How much time does it take to input SEQ & RD fields, instead of
Frame's easy autonumbering? How much time do you spend creating and
maintaining separate documents, that you might be able to combine using
conditional text? Multiply that time by the number of writers times the
hourly rate, and how much money is that saved?
Also, if single-sourcing becomes desired, RoboHelp isn't the
ticket. Frame and mif2go or WWP will do the trick for the formats you use.
To me, conditional text and autonumbering are worth the price of Frame. I
produce one set of source files that covers two products, two additional
modules, print and online versions, and the current and next release
versions. Could Word do this? Not likely. The Book features of Frame allow
you to create numerous books with different combinations of the same files
for different purposes, if that is needed.
I would ask your boss point-blank, the next time you bring
it up, why do you always laugh when I say that? If you ask as if you are
just curious, very non-confrontational, she might say, "I hate Frame" or
whatever, and then you can ask "why?" and go from there. There may be
nothing you can do about it, but if you know why she doesn't like it, you
might be able to refine your reproach.
* From Katie Kearns [kkearns -at- cisco -dot- com]:
RoboHelp works with Framemaker + Webworks. It takes a little
doing, but I'd say it's worth it. My department uses both to make online
help, and the Frame + Webworks to single-source print and online help.
* From Tim Altom [taltom -at- simplywritten -dot- com]:
Despite appearances, the dispute of Word and Frame comes
down to a central set of priorities: Word is inherently clumsy, inefficient,
and breakable, but it's a standard and its files are usable by almost anyone
within the company. Frame is slick, efficient, powerful, and much more
efficient than Word, so it can save scads of money. Combined with other
software, it beats the heck out of RoboHelp, Word, or any of that lot. It
is, however, complex, difficult to master, and nobody else in the company
can use it.
PageMaker has fallen out of favor lately. When I first
started using it in the VERY early 90s, there weren't many other games to
play. Now I see little of it in tech doc departments.
The basic question then isn't what's "better", but what
better fits the company's perceived priorities. We do manuals in both
(automating the living bejeesus out of Word, by the way) and prefer Frame,
because it's so much faster that we make more money. But then, I should add
that we're masters of Frame's templates, so we see enormous efficiencies.
Parenthetically, we also like using Frame because it lets us
easily single-source, which RoboHelp doesn't do (and neither does Word, at
least not easily). Unlike internal department costs, the cost we incur for
clients is readily visible, and they tend to fall in love with single source
for the savings it offers them. If they let us, we can do a print manual and
throw in a good, usable help file virtually for free. That's much tougher to
do in Word, so our charges rise correspondingly.
* From Giordano, Connie [Connie -dot- Giordano -at- FMR -dot- COM]:
Is your department looking at moving up to Office 2000? I
spent a couple of weeks beta testing it last year, and it seemed to resolve
a lot of the DTP vs word processing nightmares that occur with earlier
versions (MS Publisher was included in the version I tested, and worked more
seamlessly with Word, with some the bells and whistles of other DTP packages
such as Pagemaker and Quark). I don't know when we'll upgrade here, but I
hope it's soon. I'm really not pitching Word over Framemaker, since I've
never used the latter (but I have used Ventura, Quark, Publisher and
Pagemaker), just wondering if they do upgrade, maybe the battle is not worth
fighting.
* From LMOR - Larry Morrow [LMOR -at- sbt -dot- com]:
See http://www.omsys.com/dcl/mif2go.htm
<http://www.omsys.com/dcl/mif2go.htm> .
MIF2GO is another single-source option, a competitor to
Quadralay WebWorks, that takes FrameMaker source files (saved as MIF files)
and converts to HTML, RTF or WinHELP.
Also check out http://www.omsys.com/dcl/samples.htm
<http://www.omsys.com/dcl/samples.htm>
My solution:

Well, I haven't gotten to one yet, specifically. However, I think I
will:

* Keep track of the amount of time I spend on problems with Word that
I think could be avoided by using another program.
* Look into the costs and pros and cons of the various options
available.
* Ask my boss at the next opportunity, in a casual manner, what the
problem is with FrameMaker et al.
* Suggest it when I feel brave, and when I've been here a little
longer and feel I've got a bit more seniority at the company.

Thanks again for all of your help, and additional commentary to me is still
welcome.

--Beth




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