From Word Processor to Publishing Tool

Subject: From Word Processor to Publishing Tool
From: mtipple -at- pathix -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 18 Jun 2001 08:21:26 -0230

Hey Guys,

I have recently begun work as a Tech Writer with an Aerospace IT company.
The documentation department consists of three writers (including myself).
The company is currently producing technical documentation for an
AS/400-based manintenance-management system designed for aerospace-related
companies and facilities. The company had begun documenting their system
about a year ago, and has been using Microsoft word for the documentation
and Microsoft Powerpoint for the related training material.

The basic process is that a Word doc has been developed for each menu
(window) in the system. These docs are then converted to Adobe PDF,
hyperlinked together using Acrobat, and then shipped to the customer in a
folder containing the various PDFs and a PDF TOC linking all the files
together. The premise behind creating these short Word docs is that
different clients have differing uses for the system, and the documentation
could be 'customized' for their specific needs. The process has been
described a 'tedious' by one of the other writers. Anytime a change needs
to be made in the documentation, it throws the converted PDF documentation
out of sync (as such they have avoided page numbering and headers/footers).

I have had the opportunity to work with Adobe FrameMaker 6.0, and found it
to be a most stable and robust tool for long-document creation. The company
is looking to me to research other tool sets, and quite frankly, I see very
few options besides Word and Frame.

One of my greatest concerns is that switching to Frame will tap our already
limited resources (in terms of training and the conversion of existing docs
to Frame files).

I'm curious if any of you have been in a similar situation, that threshold
point where you converted from word processor to publishing tool. What were
some of the advantages and set backs you experienced with Frame? Is it
worth our time to introduce a new tool when we have gone so far with Word?

Another option that was suggested to me is presenting the manual in a HTML
file format (not as a web page, but as a document file. I'm not confident
that HTML is the way to go, but I'm willing to explore all options.

Any pearls of wisdom would be greatly appreciated, and I would attempt to
compile a summary for general information.




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