OOOPS: Sent before completed RE: New Software Recommendations/Ideas

Subject: OOOPS: Sent before completed RE: New Software Recommendations/Ideas
From: Peter Gold <peter -at- knowhowpro -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Thu, 15 Jun 2006 08:53:19 -0500

"Hill, Leo" <Leo -dot- Hill -at- kci1 -dot- com> inquired about the suitability of the Adobe CS2 products as a replacement for technical documentation.

Search Google for terms like FrameMaker and InDesign comparison, FrameMaker vs. InDesign, etc., for links to the many existing discussions. Also, search the archives at Adobe's FrameMaker and InDesign User-to-User forums, and the InDesignTalk list at

In addition, the postings on these forums and lists provides insight into the products from the viewpoint of users asking for assistance, so you'll have a real-life picture.

Here's the briefest list of what could disappoint technical writers who discover what's missing from InDesign that FrameMaker can do:

* No interruptible or complex auto-numbered lists

* No named table formats**

* No side heading paragraph formats***

* No across all columns heading paragraph formats***

* No run-in heading paragraph formats***

* No cross-references****

* No user-defined variables, or system variables

* No text insets*****

* No automatic running headers/footers that capture paragraphs from page content

* XML and structured authoring less developed at this time

* No conditional text

**Commercial third-party plug-in available

***Manual layout, scripts, or a combination required

****Free post-processing script available, but only captures page numbers, not x-reference source content

*****Can refresh links to updated text, .rtf, .doc, and .xls files

Regarding the future of FrameMaker, even if it were discontinued today, your current software won't stop working. The main areas needing improvement to keep up with emerging trends are more international language support, improved DITA support, and expanded Unicode support, all of which Adobe announced is in development.

Regarding the life expectancy of unstructured FrameMaker vs. structured FrameMaker, it's a non-issue, because authors can choose to employ the structure tools within FrameMaker, or ignore them, as the current document requires.

Your team probably should experiment with trial copies of any proposed new software, to compare the efficiency of old vs. new workflows. The more graphically-intense your pages, the more time that layout tasks will take from content development.

Peter Gold
KnowHow ProServices
Adobe Certified Expert
FrameMaker - Acrobat - InDesign

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