Re: Legacy Documentation

Subject: Re: Legacy Documentation
From: Robert Plamondon <robert -at- PLAMONDON -dot- COM>
Date: Sat, 21 Oct 1995 21:30:02 PDT

>In my experience, converting VP4.2 files to Corel Ventura
>5 is nightmarish. I also feel that because of the bugs
>etc., the program is no longer usable. Since version 4.2 is
>no longer supported, I have told my client that they may
>want to switch their manuals to another DTP application.

>I have considered FrameMaker, but am wondering if this is
>the best way to go. I'm sure many of you have had to face
>problems like this. What did you do? Do you know if there
>is a way to convince Frame (or any other software vendor)
>to let me test the conversion before my client spends
>big $ to outfit the whole company with new software?
>Does FM even have a Ventura converter? Does it work? Any
>and all advice would be greatly appreciated!

First, some general observations:

1. Very few clients are willing to use unsupported software for
long. Convincing them that they must change should be easy.

2. The package you settle upon will depend on the kinds of people
they have doing Tech Pubs, and the kind of company. Cheapskates
who don't believe in training or productivity standardize on
Word, for example, and there's not much you can do about it.
FrameMaker is the de facto standard of the non-clueless, though
Interleaf is a better Tech Pubs product for those willing to
take the time to learn it thoroughly.

3. Conversion contracts can be extremely lucrative, but watch
how you bid them (being paid by the hour is nice, but being
paid by the job is better once you've mastered a particular
conversion, because you're three times faster than you were
the first time).

If I were working on this contract, I'd do the following:

1. I would propose putting together a feasibility study, with
a fairly distant deadline (a couple of months, say). I would
have the company buy a copy of each of the candidate DTP systems
and each of the candidate conversion filters (Blueberry Software's
FILTRIX might be good here, by the way), and try to find a way to
port representative documents. None of the filters will be perfect;
a great deal of hand-work will be involved. Make sure you're
paid for it.

2. When you're sure of the options, present them. Include:
a) A line item for creating up-to-date templates/style sheets/boilerplate
before the conversion project commences, so everything ends up in
an optimal form.
b) A line item for the conversion itself
c) A line item for training the Tech Pubs department in all the
new cool things you're delivering. (If you're not confident as
a trainer, have the department sent to a manufacturer-approved
comprehensive training class, then just train them yourself
on the style sheets and boilerplate you came up with. Have
the client send you to the training class beforehand, or, at
worst, along with the employees, so you'll understand what
they know and don't know.)
d) A line item for installing the new software properly on all the
affected machines.
e) A line item for ongoing support, obliging you to provide it,
but prepaying you for some of the time.

3. If any of these line items make you uncomfortable, try to think of
people you know who could subcontract the tasks.

4. If there are a lot of users involved, the manufacturer's sales force
will become interested and helpful.

>I know this question is a little off-topic for the list,
>so please e-mail any suggestions/comments to me directly.

Nothing could be more on-topic, in my opinion. Opportunities
to create a better working environment are hardly something we
should ignore.

-- Robert
Robert Plamondon * High-Tech Technical Writing
36475 Norton Creek Road * Blodgett * Oregon * 97326
robert -at- plamondon -dot- com * (503) 453-5841
"I regret that I have but one * for my country." -- Nathan Hale

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