RE: Tools for Producing Datasheets

Subject: RE: Tools for Producing Datasheets
From: "Daniel Feiglin" <daniel_f -at- radwin -dot- com>
To: "Daniel Feiglin" <daniel_f -at- radwin -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 26 Feb 2012 14:32:54 +0200


Thanks to all those who responded. Here is a brief summary of the
responses and my own conclusions:

1. (voxwoman, Peter Gold) InDesign - We use InDesign here for
commercial stuff. But again, it is licensed to a few folks in Marketing
who use it all the time. It's output options are not very extensive and
it is not readily interoperable with other Adobe products (!)like FM
(even unstructured). I note that Adobe now offers a common scripting
environment for InDesign, FM and possibly other products.

2. (Julie Stickler) OpenOffice - I've used OpenOffice (and lately
its new fork LibreOffice) on and off, on my Linux box since 1999 and
more lately on my laptop under Win 7. I don't think that they can do
what I want better than Word, but anyway it's academic - the company for
which I work is a Microsoft/Adobe shop.

3. (John G) Open/Free software - I'm broadly familiar with Scribus.

a. While I don't rule it out, it does have a rather steep
"learning curve"

b. Scripting uses the free Python language.

c. Scribus's export formats are (currently) limited to text, EPS,
PDF, image and SVG (release 1.4.0)

4. (Weissman, Jessica, Stephen Arrants, Margaret Cekis, Monique
Semp) Word based solutions - The ideas of "clamping" the printer driver
and blocking unwanted styles together with a decent template look
feasible; I'd still need to be convinced that there are no residual Word
version dependent glitches.

Of the four approaches, item 4 is probably the most "painless" and cost
effective if it can be made to work. I have a feeling that we will need
to wrap a WB script around one or more templates. And of course, if it
works for me, it should work for everyone else.

Item 3 as runner-up: Scribus - I can live with the idea of importing
prepared text and tables into a predefined form, but I could not easily
impose that discipline on our SMEs. If I still have to "concentrate"
everything at my desk, I'd rather stay with good old Frame.

About PagePlus: As the supplied review (link) says, it's functionality
appears to be a subset of Scribus but it is easier to use. Its "Save
as/Export " capabilities (the commercial version) are more limited than


Daniel Feiglin| Technical Writer| RADWIN | t. +972 (3) 769 2827 | f.
+972 (3) 766 2902 | m. +972 (52) 3869986 | Skype baba_danny | <>

follow us on: Twitter <!/radwin_ltd> . LinkedIn
r> . Facebook <>

From: Daniel Feiglin
Sent: Thursday, February 23, 2012 09:07
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: Tools for Producing Datasheets

Hello folks!

I have a feeling that this is an old story - but here we go again:

I am looking for a tool for datasheet production.

About the datasheets:

1. There are four major "styles" reflecting the major product types,
and then further "styles" for accessories and other bits and pieces

2. Each datasheet is typically one to two pages long, containing a
page of description with a picture followed by tabulated specifications

3. The datasheets are set up over a background graphic including
branding images

4. The descriptive section has a left sidebar with marcom text

Tool Requirements:

1. Whatever I come up with may not be too expensive. For example, a
few years back I looked a FrameMaker add-in that would have done the
job. The only problem was that it started out at about $5000 a throw and
I'd be the only person here, who could use it. That was a non-starter.

2. Further to 1, it should be readily usable by several people
(SMEs) without specific TW skills

3. It should be able to import/export several formats: PDF export is
a must, and XML (both ways) is now essential. (Well, I can live with
another portable format such as rtf.)

4. Rigorous preservation of text and table formatting as well as
graphics integrity across export / import (round-tripping)

What we have tried:

1. MS Word: It does a great job even with the most primitive
template but there are severe incompatibility issues across different
versions of Word and Windows. Many old datasheets produced using Word
2003 were corrupted under Word 2007, requiring extensive "fiddling" by
yours truly. In particular, graphics placed in table cells went awry. (I
know why. I can only guess what will happen if we try to work with these
things under Word 2010 or later.) Also, Requirement condition 4 may be
violated just moving a datasheet between two different workstations.
(Just try moving any Word document between MS Word 7 installed on an
English as against a Hebrew (or any other right to left) workstation, or
just between Win XP and Win 7.)

2. We have achieved good results (PDF) using MS Publisher 2010. The
problem is that it does not export to XML. Its rtf export is completely
useless. It doesn't even export to doc/docx. Although the PUB format is
based on an open source, it looks like ancient technology having no
serious third party filters (Google!). I have told the folks here, that
I regard the MS Publisher solution as stop-gap and dead-end.

Neither of the above two solutions can effectively handle OEM versions
or localization.

Wish list:

1. An XML/Style sheet based solution importable into FM, Word, XML
editor (I like Oxygen)

2. To be able to share data with our User Manual production, the R&D
folk and maybe even Marketing

3. To be able to handle OEM versions and localization

Any thoughts?

Success stories?

Horror stories?


Daniel Feiglin| Technical Writer| RADWIN | t. +972 (3) 769 2827 | f.
+972 (3) 766 2902 | m. +972 (52) 3869986 | Skype baba_danny | <>

follow us on: Twitter <!/radwin_ltd> . LinkedIn
r> . Facebook <>

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