RE: Writing tools: Quark, FrameMaker and others

Subject: RE: Writing tools: Quark, FrameMaker and others
From: Wil Gaffga <WilG -at- gibbsCAM -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 6 Mar 2001 15:28:34 -0800

Hi Lyda.

Background - late last year I began to migrate my Doc Group off of Quark
XPress and onto Frame. We still have some legacy documents and current
localization using QXP, but beyond projects in the works, we've dropped QXP.
The group used to be a part of Marketing but as time on went and the company
grew, we moved to where Documentation belongs - Development.

I will place my answers in-line and then post comments.

Good Luck,


Wil Gaffga
Head Doc Dude
Gibbs and Associates
WilG -at- GibbsCAM -dot- com

> 1. If I am the only one with FrameMaker software, (the lone tech
> writer), how do others review my documents and comment on them? Has this
> been an issue at other companies? If so, what did you do?
I've been there. I was the sole writer, and still am, though I have a "text
monkey" (sorry Charles) to help out with localization. Reviews by others in
the company have always been done on paper or in Acrobat, even when I used
QXP. I would not want to send out my work, where someone can muck it up.
When dealing with a large document it can be hard to find those errors.
> 2. In your experience, what are Quark's strengths and weaknesses?
QXP has many strengths, primarily for text flow & graphics. There are
numerous things I did with formatting in QXP that I cannot get Frame to do.
The results are a damned fine looking manual. Version 3 QXP had almost no
long-document features. Version 4 added indexing and TOC generation which
greatly helped. Version 5 is supposed to be XML based so going to the Web
should be simple. Handling screenshots, masterpages and Style Sheets (both
paragraph and character based) is absolutely, hands down, the best.Another
really nice thing is the volume of plug-ins, ("Xtensions") that are
available for QXP. Quite literally there are thousands of them. Many of
which address QXP's weaknesses.

In spite of all of this, QXP, as it exists today, is not the tool to use for
documentation. It is a Marketing and graphics tool. We used it because that
was the tool we had available at the time. Why is QXP not the right tool? No
tables, no cross-references. no hyperlinks, basically non-existent HTML
output, no equations. It's indexing function is very cumbersome. These are
the things technical documentation needs. Then the user acquires tricks &
skills to make the document look all shiny-happy. Steep learning curve if
you've no page layout experience. If you've done layout the old-fashioned
way, with paste-ups and all that, you can count that as experience. The app
is designed to be an electronic version of what people used to do by hand.
The biggest drawback - incompatible with just about any other data format. I
love this app, but it is not what you need.
> 3. In your experience, what are FrameMakers' strengths and
> weaknesses?
Frame's weaknesses: Very difficult to update fonts if they are missing.
Steep learning curve. Missing some modern functions like drag & drop.
Mediocre handling of graphics.

Frame's strength: It is designed to get technical documentation done in an
efficient, straight forward manner and has all the tools to do it. Excellent
indexing, TOC generation, auto-text, tables, cross-references, hyperlinks
and markers.Decent control of style sheets, both paragraph and character
based. Equations and conditional text. This is all great stuff. Perhaps the
single most compelling reason vs. QXP is the ability to output HTML easily.
> 4. Why does Marketing want me to use Quark?? In all the STC
> conferences I've gone to, I've seen lots of FrameMaker sessions and few if
> any Quark sessions. Is Quark something that other tech writers use and
> if so, what are you using if for? Do you publish in Quark? Or in PDF?
When we published we would send Quark or PDF files, depending on the output
and the printer. For generating PDFs, both QXP and Frame use the same method
for optimal PDFs - Print to PostScript, Distill to PDF. Why do they want you
to use it? Probably so they can easily share data with you and they don't
know your needs. To share data with them I would recommend providing the
screenshots & EPS files and a text dump, either ASCII, RTF or Word. They can
take it from there. Personally, I don't believe that Marketing materials and
Manuals should look the same. They complement each other but they have
different purposes.
> 5. Any other words of wisdom are welcome!! %^)
God I hope not, I've put everything I've got out here. Just let them know
that QXP, while an excellent app, is not what you need. You don't use a
coping saw when you need a table saw.


Develop HTML-Based Help with Macromedia Dreamweaver 4 ($100 STC Discount)
**New Dates!!** San Francisco (Apr 16-17), San Jose (Mar 29-30) or 800-646-9989.

IPCC 01, the IEEE International Professional Communication Conference,
October 24-27, 2001 at historic La Fonda in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA.

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