Document review process? (take II)

Subject: Document review process? (take II)
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 02 Mar 2005 13:14:16 -0500

John Posada also had questions related to review: <<Yesterday, my management asked me to come up with a system of document review. I'm writing in FM andeveryone else uses Word. For the purposes of this discussion, no, I'm not switching back to Word and they are not learning FM>>

I'll insert one suggestion right at the start that you won't accept, then move on to ones that you might accept: Do your writing and review in Word, then import the files in Frame for final layout and formatting. This approach is used by just about every book and magazine and newspaper publisher in the world (though they use DTP software rather than Frame) because it works, and works extremely well. Word is the best word processor going; Frame kicks ass for document layout. Why not take advantage of their respective strengths?

Since everyone else is using Word, sometimes John has to go to the mountain rather than making the mountain come to him. <g> Okay, since that's not going to happen, on to a few alternatives:

It should be quite feasible and possibly even easy to "round trip" via RTF. Export from Frame to RTF, open the files in Word, edit them using revision tracking, review the edits in Word, then reimport the files. This approach will probably force you to do some cleanup and reformatting in Frame, but will work better than the alternative:

If you find the reimport process too difficult, copy the edits manually between Word and Frame. This works very well if most edits are simple comments; it won't work particularly well if you're talking actual copyediting (i.e., heavy sentence-level changes as opposed to "this number should be 5, not 10" comments).

<<I first considered the PDF review process. However, my problem with PDF is it creates another set of content, which I have to incorporate.>>

It's also entirely useless for actual editing; PDF files can only be commented, not edited, and you can't easily extract the text back into Frame. I've tried it, and despise this approach. You may be more masochistic than I am. <g>

<<My manager suggested a WIKI. I'm not big on that idea.>>

Can't comment on that; haven't used one.

<<I want a workflow process that can be enforced on the reviewers.>>

That requires heavy management buy-in. You can't create that kind of cooperation just by creating a process. Reviews always have two components: buy in from the users, and the technology for the reviews. I'll focus on the latter.

<<I also considered impelementing something similar to what I saw in a Macromedia HTML help where when the reader clicked a button, a java script launched that allowed the integration of content right onto the help topic for all to see. I kinda like that, but again the same problem as PDF, getting their stuff into my stuff.>>

Have a look at some of the products produced by BlastRadius ( Note that although they focus on XML, their products will work equally well with well-formed HTML. The "DocumentSpaces" product may meet your needs in terms of collaboration. Haven't seen that, but I have seen demos of the "XML Reviewer" product ( If this works even remotely as well in practice as it does in demos, it's a kickass solution for actual editing and review: every bit as good as Word's revision tracking.

I've been having an ongoing argument with the XML Reviewer that they should specifically sell this to the HTML authoring market, since it would be a kickass Web page collaboration/review tool. If you agree, send them mail. They don't believe me about this. <g>

<<My current thoughts are to use WWP Final Draft. My understanding is that I author in FM, they edit in Browser. Correct>>

Sort of. My understanding is that Final Draft is no better than a PDF solution in terms of actual editing (it only allows commenting, not substantive edits), but that it provides a good collaborative environment. But I haven't worked with the product and am basing this opinion on the early versions I read about, so I defer to those who have actual experience with the product on this issue.

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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RE: Document Review Process: From: John Posada

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