RE: Moving away from MS Word?

Subject: RE: Moving away from MS Word?
From: "Dana Dutson" <ddutson -at- Archon-Tech -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 3 Apr 2007 12:18:45 -0700

I've had experience creating documentation in MS Word, FrameMaker, and
AuthorIT. At my current company, we converted from FrameMaker to
AuthorIT within the last year. We also looked at Madcap Flare, but
ultimately decided to move to AuthorIT because of the content management
aspect. FrameMaker is a wonderful tool, but we decided to move to a new
tool because:
* We reuse blocks of content in multiple books.
* Our conditional text was becoming difficult to manage.

We have three tech writers and one trainer who use AuthorIT, and we love
it. I would definitely suggest that you move to a new tool, whether it
is FrameMaker, Madcap Flare, or AuthorIT.

If you are considering AuthorIT, here are some things you should

* In AuthorIT, you build a document with chunks of information, which
was not a familiar concept to me and took some adjusting. Once you get a
good grasp on the way documents are structured, it is very easy. For me,
FrameMaker was easier and faster to learn, but AuthorIT has proven to be
worth the extra time.

* The documentation that comes with the AuthorIT software is not
helpful. However, the knowledge base on the AuthorIT website and the
user forum are extremely helpful. I have also used the tech support a
few times, and I found them to be helpful also. They are in New Zealand,
but they respond to your questions within 24 hours.

* For training, you will find more training resources and books for
FrameMaker. I couldn't find one book for AuthorIT. However, an AuthorIT
reseller should be able to give you excellent training. For my company,
we had a demonstration, then we followed up with a question and answer
session after we'd started conversion. The question and answer session
was helpful.

* You can reuse chunks of information in multiple books and build
original content around them. There really isn't conditional text
function built into AuthorIT, but you can create styles that only appear
in print or online help. You can also use variables for things such as
product names.

* AuthorIT outputs MS Word files. You can customize the Word templates
so that they meet the needs of your documentation. You will still be
able to give Word files to your clients.

* You can publish multiple types of online help (for example, WinHelp,
HTML Help, HTML pages), and you can publish online help, PDFs, and Word
output at the same time using the Publisher. Publishing a document in
AuthorIT was much faster and easier than in FrameMaker/WebWorks

* AuthorIT has versioning and files are locked when in use.

* We use a SQL database for our library. For the people who work in the
office where the database is stored, AuthorIT works incredibly fast.
However, for the people in satellite offices, it can be frustratingly

* Conversion took some time and cleanup, but was not difficult. You can
map the styles in the existing document to styles in AuthorIT, which
saves a lot of time.

* Don't bother with the MIF importer. We bought it, but ended up
converting RTF files instead.

Good luck!


Message: 1
Date: Sun, 1 Apr 2007 03:02:37 +0300
From: "SB " <sylvia -dot- braunstein -at- gmail -dot- com>
Subject: Moving away from MS Word?
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
<693ee1f60703311702t173a563bjcb91256b13a0e39b -at- mail -dot- gmail -dot- com>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1; format=flowed

We are a medium-sized company growing faster than I can handle.
I am currently the sole technical writer for the whole company but I
that we will soon have a team.

I believe that MS Word (2003) is no longer answering our needs.

1. Documents are very large (over 600 pages), they are very complex
and Word isn't behaving well despite the fact that I have the best
in the company.
2. Contents is repeated in different documents and it is difficult to
update it everywhere. Therefore, single sourcing might be required
3. We need a better place than the network to organize the
documentation and keep track of revisions. We have a PDM (Agile) for
whole company and we use it for documentation revision control but is
good enough? Do we need better centralized documentation management?
4. At some point (soon), we will need to do on-line help. We are
currently using Flare for conversion to HTML pages but it is not
well large and complex documents. I know there is a new version which
may be
better (I haven't tried it yet).

Here are my questions:

I know about
I have heard about AuthorIT, Dita, etc. I was also told by the marketing
manager to look into Documentum for document management.

- What factors should a growing company take into consideration if
when moving onto more efficient tools?
- What tools that are available today that are indeed more efficient
than Word for a medium-sized company?
- Is there a site, a thread something that compares these tools?
- What tool is most recommended for a smooth transition?
- Pricing considerations might also be a factor but probably not the
most important fact.

Any input and advice would be greatly appreciated.

I am inclined to investigate
I am not sure this is an affordable investment or a recommendable tool
for a
medium-sized company.
I apologize if these questions have already been asked before (I am
sure they have). In such case, I would appreciate it if anyone could
send me
some pointers to those discussions.




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