Re: InDesign versus FrameMaker (versus Word)

Subject: Re: InDesign versus FrameMaker (versus Word)
From: Peter Gold <peter -at- knowhowpro -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Sat, 15 May 2010 07:32:43 -0500

mattgras -at- comcast -dot- net wrote:

> I'm working a short-fuse documentation project for the US military helping
> to produce a 150 page report that will eventually wind up in the White
> House. I came into the project mid-stream. The team here is using MS Word
> 2007 but is considering switching to InDesign.

In addition to other responses:

NEVER change products with a tight deadline approaching. NEVER NEVER NEVER
change to a product you don't know with a tight deadline approaching.

The document consists primarily of tables and figures, some quite complex.
> The team (research psychologists) create these tables in something called
> PASW Statistics 18. These tables import into Word but are a visual
> nightmare.

InDesign can import tab-delimited and comma-delimited content that can be
converted to tables by selecting and applying a convert-to-table command.
Without seeing the source material, it's hard to guess whether you'll get
what you want from InDesign's table feature, though its formatting abilities
are far smarter than Word or FrameMaker. InDesign CS4 and later have table
and cell styles.

> (1) Would InDesign offer formatting and layout cababilities superior to
> those of MS Word?

Yes, but see the NEVER caveats above.

(2) Would it be hell for me (a senior tech writer whose most recent
> experience, alas, is all with Word -- I live in Seattle and most of my
> contracts are with MS) to switch to InDesign? (I really like FrameMaker,
> although I haven't been lucky enough to use it in recent years.) The project
> deadline is July 1st.

Aren't writers told that to be successful, "write what you know?" As much as
FrameMaker's and InDesign's grass may appear to be, and in fact, are,
greener, your Word skills (assuming you've got good ones, honed by your long
experience) should serve you better in creating your content, than wrestling
with new tool-learning or relearning curves, while creating content.

(3) InDesign versus FrameMaker: which would be the more logical choice? And
> in that regard, does anyone have experience importing tables from PASW into
> FrameMaker or InDesign?

I have no experience with PASW; can't comment.

Approaching CS5, InDesign's long-document tools have been improving
significantly. What you can create with InDesign's typographic
sophistication beats almost any tool. InDesign since CS3 has had a
mail-merge ability; this may or may not be useful with your tabular data.

InDesign's XML-handling abilities can be scripted. A Designer's Guide to
Adobe Indesign and XML: Harness the Power of XML to Automate Your Print and
Web Workflows<>,
by James J. Maivald<>,
and Cathy Palmer
<>,can be helpful
in deciding whether this is a good path for your project., InDesign Talk at, and Adobe's InDesign
user-to-user forums, are good gathering places for great information and
answers from the InDesign-saviest folks around.

The most-pertinent point I've seen in this thread is the one about working
with other team members and content providers. If there will be much
round-trip editing and reviewing, and most users are familiar with using
(and mis-using) MS Word...this sentence will finish itself in your mind
faster than I can write, "Well, d'oh, what do you think is the smartest tool



Peter Gold
KnowHow ProServices

Use Doc-To-Help's XML-based editor, Microsoft Word, or HTML and
produce desktop, Web, or print deliverables. Just write (or import)
and Doc-To-Help does the rest. Free trial:

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