RFI: ESM2000 Electronic Service Manual pkg?

Subject: RFI: ESM2000 Electronic Service Manual pkg?
From: Mike McGraw <mikemcg -at- CONNECTNET -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 20 Mar 1998 08:50:40 -0800

Asking for Comments on ESM2000 Software

Earlier this week, my small technical writing group listened to a pitch
for L-Cube Innovative Solutions, Inc's ESM2000--Technical Web Master
product. ESM, for Electronic Service Manual software: a sweet
temptation. We decided to ask our fellow technical communicators (you)
what you know of this product and its competitors or other alternatives.

This "information management" platform promises to deliver a "complete
solution to organizing, maintaining, and intelligent retrieval of
technical information in Engineering, Service, and Manufacturing
organizations. Unfortunately, the brochure they put out to advertise
ESM2000 is a mess, both graphically and for poor use of English.

L-Cube represents ESM as an information-management tool rather than an
authoring tool. The software takes RTF files and standard graphic
formats as inputs and allows you to build links, add live callouts, and
build heirarchies for the easy retrieval of technical information. In
our case that means the user (a technician or operator) can scan quickly
through an online version of our equipmant manuals, locate drawings,
functional descriptions, troubleshooting information, and part numbers,

In addition, ESM apparently allows users (more than just the authors) to
add markups and comments to drawings and text--not permanent markups, of
course, but popup comments or changes. These "updates" can be sent back
and forth to any other user and made available (still as "overlay" info)
to anyone using your online docs.

L-Cube's rep spent some time telling us that he considers the road to
PDF file delivery only a "roadblock" and that ESM's is the true way and
the light. Apparently the Sematech organization has given ESM its
blessing and at least some of the Sematech members (Motorola, Intel,
etc.) and other companies have adopted the software for internal use and
are converting or paying L-Cube to convert at least some of their
vendors' online documentation ESM format.

Now for the bad news and my question:

1) ESM2000 is expensive...not sure how much, but I think it's in the
clouds with Interleaf and other "big-adopter" packages.

2) L-Cube is happy to convert our current doc sets, but the price for
one of our several sets of manuals would buy you and me a new car (or
buy me a *bunch* of the beaters that I've been driving over the last two

3) ESM is undoubtedly a neat package, but in addition to spending a
wheelbarrow full of cash to buy it, we'll have to hang up most of our
work with FrameMaker (and we're just starting to convert up from
PageMaker) and retrain. We could do all our stuff in Word, generate the
RTFs and then make the magic happen with ESM. Problem is, is this the
way the world is headed or would we be going up a dead end? Is it
better to use PDF or some other tool for our online doc and let the
bigger companies decide what platform they really want their supporting
documentation to come on?

All answers and comments will be warmly welcomed. Please reply either to
techwr-l or to me directly. I look forward to meeting you all
at STC's Annual Conference in (nearby) Anaheim, CA this May.

Mike McGraw (mmcgraw -at- deltad -dot- com)
was: technician extraordinaire for Rockwell Corporation
is: senior techical writer for Delta Design in San Diego, CA.

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