Re: Producing Books

Subject: Re: Producing Books
From: "Linda K. Sherman" <linsherm -at- CONCENTRIC -dot- NET>
Date: Wed, 11 Feb 1998 11:27:35 -0500

Gina Hertel wrote:
> Does anyone use MS Word to produce books or manuals?
> The Tech Comm group at my company is beginning to develop training books
> and software manuals.
> What is the benefit of Page or Frame over Word for something like this?
> Would you say Page or Frame is a "must have" when you're getting into
> the publication arena?
> I want to start off on the right foot.

IMO it's not really a question of either-or, but of whether you need a
page layout program in addition to Word. At the very least, you'll want
to use Word (or WordPerfect) to create outlines and compose the bulk of
the book's text--these are important areas where page layout programs
just can't compete.

But chances are, you can get Word to do everything you really need. The
sort of publications you're talking about rarely test the limits of
Word's page layout capabilities. However, if you intend to do a lot of
complex formatting (sidebars, icons, annotated margins, multiple
columns, text flowing around pictures, etc.) you'll probably find it
easier to get good-looking results a proper page layout program. Word
(especially 97) can do these things, but it's not always immediately
obvious how to do them, and it's my experience that occasionally the
results are less than ideal unless you hand-tweak everything.

I've used Word to produce a number of lengthy documents and user
manuals. I once wrote a complete set of user manuals using Word 3 for
Mac, which had very little page layout support and no documentation
management or revision control at all. More recently, I wrote a 150-page
user manual with Word 5 for Mac then later ported it to Word 97 for
Windows. I've never felt any compelling reason to spend money on a page
layout program for this sort of thing.

Just one last note: it's my opinion that the physical attractiveness of
a document is 90% a function of the esthetic sensibilities of the
designer, and only 10% a function of which program you're using. Someone
who creates crummy-looking documents on Word is going to create
crummy-looking documents on a page layout program.

Linda K. Sherman <linsherm -at- concentric -dot- net>
Welsh-related and other stuff to be found at

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