RE: Reasons to adopt FrameMaker

Subject: RE: Reasons to adopt FrameMaker
From: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: Federico Viani <Federico -dot- Viani -at- telit -dot- com>, "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 16 Mar 2011 13:27:11 -0400

FrameMaker costs money.
It'll cost large money if you give it to all your SMEs.
It has a stiff learning curve for people who have known
only MS Word. If your SMEs have other work for which
you are really paying them - their primary function is
not writing documents - then it would be a tough sell
to persuade them to adopt FM.

Word is usually available to everybody in the company
almost by default, so they have some familarity.
Familiarity breeds...
So people who don't know any better make horrible botches
of documentation by doing "spot formatting". The most
beautiful and consistent templates and documents you
could create can be quickly vandalized by anybody who
has MS Word and good (or otherwise) intentions.

FrameMaker is a great tool for technical writers and
publications departments, because usually everybody
who uses it is motivated to learn to do so properly.
At the same time, it prevents unwanted or unwise changes
to documentation source because most people in an organization
are unlikely to have FrameMaker.

But you can't circulate a FrameMaker document all over your
company for review and comments, the way you could a Word
document. Only FrameMaker can open FrameMaker documents.
So you'd need to circulate your docs as PDFs, and only the
people with the FrameMaker licences would be able to
put the resulting comments, fixes, and changes back into
the FrameMaker docs.

If you don't have an actual Techpubs department, or at
least a group of tame techwriters, then my advice would
be to get your recently acquired FrameMaker documents
exported into some other format and use tools that
already work for you.

If it was me, I'd be using LibreOffice, and to heck with
FM or Word.

LibreOffice does a pretty good job of exporting to PDF format.
It's a lot like Word in overall use and capability.
It both reads and writes in Word file format - though I prefer
to work from its native '.odt' format.

At my office, most of us have MS Office 2003, while a few have
been getting MS Office 2007 or 2010 in the past year or so,
resulting in documents that most cannot read unless they download
and install a plug-in.
Instead, I just open the .docx files in LibreOffice.

LibreOffice (formerly is open source, and it's
free for anyone to use, so nobody can say they can't open/read
your document.

If you are a growing company, I'd start looking at the option
to hire a few technical writers to take on the documentation
tasks, standardize the look-and-feel across all products and
product lines, provide a trained editorial eye, provide
consistency and proficiency in the language in which you normally
publish. Quite often, SMEs do not necessarily have your publication
language as their native/first language, so when documents are
created by a number of such people they can be technically
accurate while being uneven in tone, style, clarity, readability.

Then, let the new techpubs department decide what tools to use.

- kevin

> -----Original Message-----
From: Federico Viani
> Sent: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 12:01 PM
> Hello,
> I'm writing to this mailing list looking for pieces of advice
> about publishing solutions for my high-tech company -- in the
> wireless field -- in the hope to get unspoiled opinions from
> people who are actually using the software, not just selling it.
> We're used to write our documentation using MS Word, and
> publish it in .pdf format. Documents' sources come from R&D
> (SME's) and we at Product Management level roughly check it
> for structure, template and possibly grammar. Then we
> 'distill' the .pdf and publish it on our intranet and
> website. Future revisions might involve the Word 'track
> changes' feature, and all exchanges are email based.
> After the acquisition of another company's branch, we came
> across a bunch of documentation which is in FrameMaker format
> and we are wondering whether this could be a chance for us to
> adopt such a popular tech writing tool, without actually
> grasping the real need of such a solution in our scenario,
> except we're in a hurry of editing the new documentation in a
> smoother way. Exporting techniques to .doc format are being
> under inspection. The free ones at least, they don't seem to
> provide a real method.
> Irrespective of how we are going to solve our format issues,
> can anyone point out good reasons for us to adopt such a tool?
> We're a global company, we are growing and we'd like to be
> more and more productive but still we're wary that it might
> get in the way.
> Thank you.
> Federico Viani
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Reasons to adopt FrameMaker: From: Federico Viani

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