SUMMARY: Pagemaker questions (long)

Subject: SUMMARY: Pagemaker questions (long)
From: Jill Burgchardt <jburgcha -at- PESTILENCE -dot- ITC -dot- NRCS -dot- USDA -dot- GOV>
Date: Thu, 5 Feb 1998 09:37:50 -0700

In early January I asked if Pagemaker would be an improvement over Word for
producing a series of graphics-intensive documents. I promised to summarize to
the list. I've waited, because I wanted to apply some of the advice I was given
before drawing any conclusions.

The situation:
I have a 250+ page manual with 188 graphics. The graphics have numerous
callouts. The manual is divided into 21 files. Word crashes with appalling
regularity on these documents. Consequently, I find it more stable when I don't
use master document or RD fields. I incorporate graphics by reference and I do
all indexing manually. These steps help, but don't eliminate the problems.
I converted the files to Framemaker, which I own at home. Things worked well.
I lobbied to get Framemaker at work, but failed. However, I was given a copy of
Pagemaker, still in the box, that they already had with the mandate to try and
use it, if feasible.
I'm facing some very tough deadlines, so I turned to the list for help
figuring out 1) if Pagemaker would meet my needs; 2) how to get up to speed
quickly on it.

The response:
Split. That's why I decided that I needed to attack the problem and judge for
myself. Here are a few key issues that came up:
Graphics: Most respondents praised the graphics handling capabilities of
Pagemaker, but felt it somewhat cumbersome for book-length projects. I'm finding
they're right. Things I find simple in Word, such as headers and footers, are
clunky in Pagemaker. On the other hand, once I figured them out, I could move on
to other things.
Learning curve: I thought I could pick up any new word processing/desktop
publishing software in half an hour and become moderately proficient within a
week. I have to admit that Pagemaker has humbled me. I did pick it up quickly,
but I'm not proficient yet. It is a different paradigm and I find myself
impatient to get the simple things done. (NOTE: This response is as much a
function of deadline pressures as it is a function of the product. I know that,
but it still interferes.)
Word to Pagemaker conversion: Actually, this part was fairly simple. It's
setting up new sections and editing after conversion that take time.
Pagemaker problems on a network: One respondent had problems, several others
expressed surprise. Not an issue for me, since it will only be on my machine.
Preparation of files in PDF or postscript format: Both Framemaker and
Pagemaker do this well as respondents indicated. This has been a real pain with
the Word files, so this is one area where I can say that Pagemaker will help me
meet my deadlines. On the tests I did (same chapter prepared in all 3 programs),
Pagemaker and Framemaker both produced smaller PDF files. I don't really
understand why, since the content/resolution didn't change. Two respondents
noted similar results.

I don't think Pagemaker will make it easier to meet my March deadline.
However, it is allowing me to move towards it at a steady rate without the
crises (crashes, format errors) that I encountered in Word. Bugs have simply
made Word too risky to meet my needs. The time I'm spending on learning
Pagemaker and dealing with the few cumbersome items is a tradeoff. I am making
gains on indexing and preparing output for the printer. Next release, I expect
Pagemaker will increase my productivity. Comparing all three products (Word,
Framemaker, and Pagemaker) I would still choose Framemaker for the type of
document I'm working on, but that's not a choice I have.
This is a short summary and I'm still trying to familiarize myself with many
of the tips people provided. When I do, I may learn to love Pagemaker. I've
gathered a lot of useful information that I think would be helpful to others
evaluating these products. I hope to write an article and put it on a web page,
but it'll have to wait until after my March deadlines. :)

Jill Burgchardt
jburgcha -at- pestilence -dot- itc -dot- nrcs -dot- usda -dot- gov

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