Re: Advice on systems

Subject: Re: Advice on systems
From: Charles Fisher <decrsc!charles -at- UUNET -dot- UU -dot- NET>
Date: Mon, 14 Jun 1993 19:33:22 -0400

Paula -
I agree with Chuck on this issue - get specifics on what your company and
your clients want before you invest in a new system. Don't let the tool
you use drive the way you produce your documents. Decide exactly what you
want to do first, then choose the tool that does it the best. Unless you're
getting into heavy duty electronic publishing with lots of imported
images and high page counts with heavy cross-references, then MS Word
will probably work fine.

One thing you might want to do when you're trying to get specifics on
how your company/clients want the new documents to look/read is to ask
them for examples of what they consider a good document to be. If you ask
the questions that Chuck proposes (I'm not picking on you, Chuck!), then
most people who aren't educated in the area of document production would
probably say YES to everything. If that happens, then you know what they want
changed, but you don't know what they want you to change it TO (he said,
ending his sentence with a preposition). It's doubtful, but someone may tell
you that they really like the way that WordPerfect's documentation looks
and reads. If you hear this a lot, then study the parts of the WP manual
that they like. Then incorporate those techniques into your new style.

As for the actual switch (assuming that's what you'll do), look at the costs
and factors associated with converting your documents to the new system.
Karen Kay said that her company had lots of problems with formats getting
trashed during conversions. I don't know what version/platform of Frame she's
using, but the MS Windows version of Frame has built-in filters for popular
PC-based word processing files. We use Frame on UNIX workstations, and we
resorted to a third-party vendor's product called Filtrix (from Blueberry
Software) that converts to/from Frame and a host of word processor formats.
It's somewhat crude (the version we have converts only to Frame 2.something,
and we have heard no news of an upgrade), but it gets the job done. If
you've got sophisticated formatting with your current documents AND you want
to change the tool you use, consider letting a conversion vendor handle
your files for you. They range in price and quality, but you might be able
to convince your company to fork out the bucks if the alternative is
a temp (or worse, you) spending mega-hours retyping or reformatting files.
The trade-off is that, if you decide to completely overhaul your documents'
designs, you might be better off converting your MSWord files to
ASCII and starting with your text clean of any formats.

Get in touch if you have any questions or would like some
ammunition for justifying FrameMaker (we had to use plenty to get Frame
here, and I think I can dig up some old files...). Good Luck!

Charles Fisher
Senior Documentation Specialist
Program Manager/President-Elect, STC Washington, DC Chapter

Datatel, Inc.
4375 Fair Lakes Court
Fairfax, VA 22033
(703) 968-4588 (voice)
(703) 968-4625 (FAX)
charles -at- datatel -dot- com

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