SUMMARY - Frame vs Word
Michael LaTorra <mikel -at- HUEY -dot- ACCUGRAPH -dot- COM>
Fri, 13 Jan 1995 18:29:07 MST
*** NOTE: This is a LOOOONG posting. If you are in a hurry,
only read the "Overview" below.
Thanks to the many fine folks who took time to give me their
thoughts about FrameMaker and Word, and special thanks to
Ellen Levy Finch for her invaluable comparison data.
As promised, here is my summary of this topic.
-- Mike LaTorra
mikel -at- accugraph -dot- com
SUMMARY OF FRAMEMAKER vs WORD
This summary is divided into three parts:
1. Overview -- the results "in a nutshell"
2. Comparison Table -- strengths and weaknesses
3. Quotes -- selected opinions
A total of 30 responses were received as of Jan. 13, 1995.
The majority (27) were very much in favor of using Frame,
particularly for the kind of large, complex documents that
most technical writers deal with. Two respondents were
ambivalent or neutral on the issue, and one was mostly in
favor of Word except for those long documents that Word
simply cannot handle.
The essential point made by several respondents is that
Frame is a DTP package that includes an excellent word
processor, while Word is a word processor that includes
2. Comparison Table of FrameMaker and Word
FUNCTION FRAME v4 WORD v6
platforms PC, Mac, UNIX PC, Mac
application Desk Top Publisher Word Processor
speed fast slow
books designed for this; not designed for this;
(multi-file) 1,000 pages are OK; 100 pages are barely possible;
easy to create & 1,000 pages are out of the question
maintain, including extremely slow to process/update;
pagination difficult to control pagination
between files in book
templates comprehensive, robust, limited, difficult to modify once
easy to use and modify in use
mixed page easy to combine combining different layouts in the
layouts different layouts same document tends to crash Word
in one document
paragraph easy to apply, modify; easy to apply; user can not define
tags user can define number number of lines in widow/orphan control
of lines in widow/
character user can define user can define
hyphenation robust; allows weak; does not allow non-breaking
non-breaking hyphen hyphen
version uses Conditional Text multiple file sets must be maintained
control to maintain different
doc. versions in same
references index, cross-ref., cross-references can cause problems;
easy to create & updating references is extremely slow
tables each instance must table formats can be defined by user
be formatted & saved; 2 pre-defined formats included
graphics adequate tools for limited tools; outside graphic app.
most purposes usually required
image capture built-in function - none -
sorting - none - supported for tables, lists, paragraphs
printing no registration marks, supports registration marks, thumb-
thumbnails, color nails, color separations
The basic difference between Frame and Word as far as I can see is
that Frame, through sophisticated variable, cross reference and
conditional text facilities, allows far shorter overall document
production times for any document that is likely to undergo review,
reissue etc. A colleague of mine, a word user, only yesterday spent
about three hours updating all figure references (etc.) in his
document. This would have taken about 2 seconds with Framemaker...
jerryt -at- aom -dot- bt -dot- co -dot- uk
My biggest problem with Word is the lack of multiplatform
interchangeability. We have framemaker files on the network for
editting by DOS, MAC and unix users. All users use the same files.
When we have a remote user not on our network, a dos compatible disk
is made of the file. The dos compatible disk is the only rub, it
forces file names to dos format.
Incidently, since frame has an integrated graphics package.
The graphics are editable by all three platforms. Every time I get a
Word user's file, it has integrated graphics from another graphics
package that doesn't translate well, even between Word platforms.
lbt -at- barracuda -dot- kodak -dot- com
I spent 5 years in a Word environment, and now I am using FrameMaker.
I used to love Word and found it pretty easy to use, until I loaded Word 6.0
on my pc at home, and now I can't stand it!!! . . .
lmr -at- syl -dot- nj -dot- nec -dot- com
One of the most important reason why we stick to Frame is
because of their Technical support. Frame's technical support
has always pulled through for us. On the other hand I have never
even tried to get support for Microsoft Word.
I remember having to call for a Windows question. What happened?
I was transferred three or four times before talking to the right person.
I hope Microsoft's support has improved since, but never the less
Frame's Tech support is one of the best in my book.
lucl -at- speedware -dot- com
I can give you several dis/advantages to Word 6, since we're fighting Word
problems as we speak:
a) Frame is an order of magnitude faster.
b) Turning on revision marking disables automatic paragraph numbering.
c) Turning on revision marking can cause repagination to go from minutes to
d) Memory footprint of Word 6 is 50% larger than Frame.
e) Disk footprint is 400% larger than Frame.
Word 6 Advantages:
a) WordBasic, if you can stand the glacial speed, can to some neat stuff
once you figure it out.
b) More third party support for filters.
c) Revision merging is cool, where multiple people can edit copys of the
document and you can "fairly" automatically merge corrections together.
kstone -at- crewstone -dot- com
I did some work last year for a group that insisted on Word. They paid a lot
more money for my time because I had to struggle to make Word do things that
I could have done in minutes in FrameMaker. For serious documentation, graphics,
and layout, Word will cost you money in time and productivity.
fwersan -at- peritus -dot- com
Word 6.0 is slower than ......... (insert your favorite comparison
statement). I don't know about you, but I am running Word 6.0 on a
Macintosh Quadra 660 AV (a relatively fast machine) and I have allocated
10MB of RAM to Word, and it still crawls. FrameMaker, on the other hand, is
cruising--even when you're working with extremely long documents and so
dee -at- dtint -dot- dtint -dot- com
Frame is better when you are:
* dealing with extremely long documents
* placing grahics in a document
* numbering references, sections, figures (pre MSWord 6.0, which is
supposed to be better at that.)
golembiewski -at- mustang -dot- nrl -dot- navy -dot- mil
If your documentation is made up of regular letters, memos, and handouts,
Word'll probably do just fine. But, if you need a four-wheel drive of a tool,
stick with Frame. And, if you are doing any online documentation, Frame is
definitely a better tool.
scott -at- vax -dot- micron -dot- com
As a devoted Framer, I bemoan the fact that we have to defend a dynamite
FrameMaker is excellent--my opinion is, "You've used the rest, now stick with
the best." I've used Word (Mac & Windows) for years. Word's a good product,
OK for the typical office documents, but it pales in comparison when you're
ready to do serious publishing. I cringe when I see someone trying to do a
long document (10 or more pages) in Word, WordPerfect, or PageMaker. FM eases
the frustrations immensely!
Frame also meshes into WWW publication. I've experimented with the
frame2html filter, trying to port a complex scientific paper (with tons of
equations) from Word to Frame to the Web. Fun! (And those awful embedded
graphics in Word did not survive the operation. The Frame graphics did!)
I consider FM the supreme tool & the superior choice to all competitors.
Maybe we need a shootout to settle this battle once & for all!
Charlene_Strickland -at- cpqm -dot- saic -dot- com
Beside 6.0 being unstable (don't let Microsoft tell you otherwise), there is
at least 1 lethal failure in Word that will get you if you're producing
In the footers, Word allows for as much as 1/8 inch variance in placement of
the footer from page-to-page. With the thin paper that many companies use
for their manuals, you can see through the pages and the 1/8 inch variance
looks tacky. Depending on your print shop and if you have tight allowances
on your margins, you may also end up getting page numbers chopped off in
The other really annoying feature about Word, is that if you're shy of hard
disk space, and you ever get the message "not enough disk space to save this
file" you get to reinstall Word because winword.exe become corrupted. I
could go on.
Cweatbro -at- salsa -dot- walldata -dot- com
If you think of these to programs as automobile transmissions, Frame is an
automatic trans with a full range of power and speed; Word is a manual
trans which doesn't have a fourth gear (yet). Which car would you drive on
johnwe -at- aw -dot- com
I'm a Frame fan, too. I've used Word to produce long software manuals
(Word 5.1 on the Mac) and it is a decidedly inferior tool.
Reasons to stay with FrameMaker:
indexing, cross-referencing, table of contents generation: when I used
Word, it didn't support cross-referencing. apparently there is such a
capability now. but Frame's system of tagging indexes, cross-refs, etc., is
much simpler and easier to use than Word's. (Another less obvious
advantage is that you can use cross-refs, index, and toc entries as
hypertext links; makes it easy to jump around as you edit --- much better
than Go to Page or Find for locating stuff.
marg -at- stc -dot- com
Take features such as paragraph formats. List what frame and word
do. Then list HOW. Frame (for me) starts getting better than word
when you see HOW paragraph formats work in a document and more importantly,
how they work accross multiple documents. I would also emphasize
items such as FrameMaker's master pages, reference pages, and ability
to work with color.
Bottom line is, if you compare feature to feature, both do pretty much
the same stuff. But, if you look at how each accomplishes the task of
putting stuff onto paper, then you see why one outshines the other.
glen -at- softint -dot- com
One thing I've noticed recently is that although Word can
now print headers on every page of a multi-page table, you
still can't control where pagebreaks occur within a table
without breaking it up into multiple tables (at least *I*
can't figure out how). To me that's a big drawback for
technical docs. Between that and having to do graphics by
reference for speed's sake, plus the rumor that master docs
don't behave very well once they grow to full size, I've
concluded that it sounds like an exercise in misery. I'm
happy to do initial draft docs in Word, though, when needed.
Despite my reservations about it as a DTP'er, I really like it
as a word processor.
weber -at- easi -dot- com
I work for Northern Telecom as a tech writer. Several years ago we used
MS Word on Macs for our documentation until our books became too big for
Word to handle adequately. Then we dumped our Macs and went to Interleaf
on Sun Workstations. Now, we are in the process of converting our HUGE
suites of documents from Interleaf to Frame, which we have now decided
will best suit our needs.
We abandoned Word because it couldn't handle large documents, and
because we wanted a feature that would enable us to pull several
documents from one main book. Interleaf does this using a feature called
effectivity, and Framemaker does this using Conditional scripting. We
are actually using FrameBuilder, without the builder portion of it,
which essentially means its Framemaker. We also changed to Frame so that
eventually we can pull all of the information for our documents from a
central information database, using 'chunking' that Framebuilder
provides with its 'structure' element.
swiftl -at- bnr -dot- ca
The four-writer staff at my company currently uses Word 6 and is
going to switch to Framemaker. We had been using Ventura 4.2,
but we decided to use Word 6 in the hopes that it would better
satisfy our tech writing needs. However, Word 6 has proved a
All four of us have had this problem: Save a document at the end
of the day, come back the next morning to find the headers and
footers bear no resemblance to what they were saved as. Then
there are the notorious problems in handling large documents,
functions that don't work as advertised, and the inability of
Word to perform with any sort of consistency.
Our feeling is that Word is an educational tool--it teaches you
dave -at- disc-synergy -dot- com
Actually, I've used both Frame and Word and I preferred Word,
though Frame has some nice features. (Not just for short,
simple documents, but for a 600+ page specification.)
In my experience, Word makes 90% of the writing experience
easier than Frame.
Though, if Frame was the choice, I wouldn't be unhappy with
jyakich -at- nwpx12 -dot- mnet -dot- uswest -dot- com
Here is my nickel's worth. In spite of its claims, Word is not yet a
publishing package for long and/or technical documents. FrameMaker was
designed to be a publishing package for long documents with
cross-references, variables, T.O.C., etc. As such, FrameMaker provides a
great deal of flexibility. I have also used Ventura Publisher. It is a
good package, but truthfully, FrameMaker is more powerful. Frame is
compatible across UNIX, MAC, and DOS. I don't think Word can make that
claim. I'm new to UNIX, but I'm very partial to it. I worked in the DOS
world for five years. Now it would be hard to go back.
jfockler -at- iphase -dot- com
Porting a doc set between any two word
processors is a real B_____. Do NOT trust the Marketing literature
that describes how easy it is. I've done it once and am NOT
interested in losing another 6 months of my life.
David (The Man) Blyth
dsb -at- alsys -dot- com
Frame requires some real learning, because the basic concepts are
not at all obvious. This makes it a hard sell to manager-types,
who can always stumble on in Word. Word lends itself to terrible
abuse by the clueless.
rbruman -at- raynet -dot- com
Personally, I have just jumped off Word. I have used it since 1985 for the
small stuff, with FrameMaker reserved mostly for the multifile documents or
those that need the fine formatting that FrameMaker does and Word doesn't do.
Word cannot coordinate a dozen files, and a single, 600-page file would be
cumbersome under any software. Its style management is rudimentary in
comparison to the FrameMaker paragraph and character "designers."
Ed -at- WhiteLight -dot- com
Although I have never used Frame, I have used Word on a Mac for about six
years now. Up until Word 5.1 (which is what I still use on my LC 520 at
home), Word is great. BUT Word 6.0, which I run on my Power Mac at work
(6100/60, 16 Megs real Ram, Ram Doubler for 32 Megs effective, 160 Meg HD),
is a DOG!!!!!!! It barks when I launch it, I have to walk the damn thing
twice a day and clean up behind it, and so on & so forth. And this is the
"Power Mac-accelerated" version! My understanding is that it's the Windows
version ported over to Mac. It certainly has a Windows look / feel to it,
compared to most Mac programs.
John R. Hughes
jhughes -at- maugham -dot- atc -dot- edmonton -dot- ab -dot- ca
Anyone who has ever once created a book in Word and an
equivalent book in Frame wouldn't think twice about sticking with Frame
(and I have done both, simultaneously, and cursed Word every time I used
it). ... If I were to summarize my own experience about Word vs Frame:
Word can sort things. Frame does almost everything else, and more,
Ellen Levy Finch
elf -at- xs -dot- com
EDITOR'S NOTE: Special thanks to Ellen Finch for FAXing me her very
detailed comparison of Frame and Word which goes into much greater
depth than the table I included here. If anyone has need of contract
writing services in northern California, I suggest you contact Ellen
at Expert Support Inc. 415-941-9778 or directly at 408-374-8579.
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