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FrameMaker or something else? Advice please.

Jul 30, 2013 10:46 AM

Tags: #git #madcap_flare_vs_framemaker

Hello all,

 

I am trying to gather enough information in order to make an informed decision on which documentation tool is most appropriate for my new job.

 

A little background...I am an experience technical writer with Word (for shorter documentation) and FrameMaker (for larger documents). The last version of FrameMaker I had used was v9 (but I knew it very well).

 

Now, I am in a position to choose a publishing tool.

 

I currently own:

 

  • Word 2013 (happy to continue to use this for shorter quick/dirty documentation)
  • Creative Cloud

My choices for documentation (for various reasons) are currently [cost is not a number one concern]:

  • FrameMaker (for familiarity reasons)
  • MadCap Flare
  • Sphinx (I was asked to look into this tool but reStructuredtext doesn't appeal to me and even offer the formatting flexibility I require)

 

Requirements:


  • Must enable OS agnostic collaboration (usually just markups and commenting)

        NOTE: My current solution is to output as PDF and save to Crocodoc personal (check them out!). So this requirement may be moot.

  • Single source documentation that will output/accommodate (with little or no edits) to the following formats: XML/HTML5 (web publishing), and PDF. [also potentially CHM help format but this is a bonus]
  • Excellent content/design control
  • Must scale well for large documentation
  • Corporate requirement: must play nice with git (gitorious.org) for source control

 

  Questions:


  1. Are there any suitable tools, that meet all the above criteria, in the Adobe CC that I could leverage?
  2. If 1) is a negative, how well does FrameMaker v11 compare against MadCap Flare? What makes FM the better choice?
  3. I have heard that FrameMaker is end of life... Is that true? If so, what is replacing FrameMaker?

 

Thank you very much,

Shawn

 
Replies
  • Currently Being Moderated
    Jul 30, 2013 11:27 AM   in reply to shawninvancouver

    shawninvancouver wrote:

     

    Hello all,

     

    I am trying to gather enough information in order to make an informed decision on which documentation tool is most appropriate for my new job.

     

    A little background...I am an experience technical writer with Word (for shorter documentation) and FrameMaker (for larger documents). The last version of FrameMaker I had used was v9 (but I knew it very well).

     

    Now, I am in a position to choose a publishing tool.

     

    I currently own:

     

    • Word 2013 (happy to continue to use this for shorter quick/dirty documentation)
    • Creative Cloud

    My choices for documentation (for various reasons) are currently [cost is not a number one concern]:

    • FrameMaker (for familiarity reasons)
    • MadCap Flare
    • Sphinx (I was asked to look into this tool but reStructuredtext doesn't appeal to me and even offer the formatting flexibility I require)

     

    Requirements:


    • Must enable OS agnostic collaboration (usually just markups and commenting)

            NOTE: My current solution is to output as PDF and save to Crocodoc personal (check them out!). So this requirement may be moot.

    • Single source documentation that will output/accommodate (with little or no edits) to the following formats: XML/HTML5 (web publishing), and PDF. [also potentially CHM help format but this is a bonus]
    • Excellent content/design control
    • Must scale well for large documentation
    • Corporate requirement: must play nice with git (gitorious.org) for source control

     

      Questions:


    1. Are there any suitable tools, that meet all the above criteria, in the Adobe CC that I could leverage?
    2. If 1) is a negative, how well does FrameMaker v11 compare against MadCap Flare? What makes FM the better choice?
    3. I have heard that FrameMaker is end of life... Is that true? If so, what is replacing FrameMaker?

     

    Thank you very much,

    Shawn

    Hi, Shawn:

     

    You've named some tools I've never heard of, but that's just me, perhaps.

     

    Your requirements for comparing ID vs. FM aren't very specific, so it's hard to say whether one or the will serve your needs better. A list of specific requirements would help.

     

    Also, post your request at techwr-l.com's forum. That's where tech writers hang out. Many users of FM and those tools that are usual partners with it in workflows there, who may have good advice to share.

     

    Also, search Google for "framemaker compare vs InDesign reviews," and similar terms without quotes. Lots of views and opinions.

     

    If you haven't also posted on the Adobe FM forum, do so. More users, more views.

     

    For FM vs Flare, look at the Madcap user forums.

     

    FM's not going to die anytime soon, according to many opinions and statements in postings on various forums.

     

    As to whether anything CC will be better fior you than pre-CC versions, it depends on your specific requirements, but probably not at the current time.

     

    HTH

     

    Regards,

     

    Peter Gold

    KnowHow ProServices

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Jul 30, 2013 11:30 AM   in reply to shawninvancouver

    People have been talking about the end of Frame since Frame 5. Adobe has and is continuing to put resources to Frame. The Tehcnical Communications Suite has many different means of outputing information created in Frame, including RoboHelp. Definitely worth looking into.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Jul 30, 2013 5:16 PM   in reply to shawninvancouver

    Based on your list of requrements above, your XML and HTML5 output is likely going to take ID out of the running.

     

    FrameMaker will run circles around ID's XML capabilities, which are limited mostly to receiving XML content and publishing to PDF and other outputs.

     

    ID has great EPUB and output via DPS to mobile apps, but I don't believe they have an HTML 5 solution.

     

    FrameMaker does, via exporting or linking to RoboHelp. I expect WebWorks and MIF2GO might do HTML5, but that's for others to weigh in on.

     

    Though you may not be tempted to author in RoboHelp based upon one of the replies, you'll find it an excellent way to publish your FM content to a myriad of electronic outputs. It's how I published EPUB of both my FM book, and the FM11 Reviewer's Guide.

     

    -Matt

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Jul 31, 2013 1:00 AM   in reply to shawninvancouver

    shawninvancouver wrote:

     

    You're correct Michael but Adobe is also guilty of not getting this message across internally.

     

    Back when I was using FM v9, I spoke with Adobe tech support about some issues I was experiencing and wanted to know a workaround... and failing that: a) Would upgrading to the latest version 10 solve my problem, or b) Should I consider InDesign instead?

     

    My questioning eventually led to the Adobe support person telling me that I should consider *upgrading* to InDesign because FM was end of life. This phone call took place in the summer of 2011... now there is v11 so clearly, this Adobe support person was wrong.

     

    I have some limited exposure to Robohelp (isn't THAT EOL yet? - LOL) but I believe it is too limiting for my purposes. I expect most of my documentation is going to be as manuals, not help files. I just need a help file output as an option, rather than a primary output.

    Only official corporate public announcements can state corporate policies. Tech-support agents who offer anything more than technical support are acting inappropriately. You may not have recognized this in the case you're citing, but keep it in mind in the future. If an agent tells you something outside of support for your inquiry, ask to have your case escalated to someone who has authority to make that claim.

     

    This isn't the first time an agent has made this mistake. It reflects badly on the company. Escalating the case to a manager gives the company a chance to improve its training.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Jul 31, 2013 5:41 AM   in reply to shawninvancouver

    Hi Shawn in beautiful Vancouver

     

    When I look at your requirements, I think you have a perfect business case for DITA. Your toolset could include:

    • FrameMaker 11 (maybe with Leximation's DITA-FMx plugin) for authoring the content and publishing it to PDF
    • oXygen XML Author for authoring/reviewing the content and publishing it to HTML-based deliverables (CHM, XHTML, HTML5, webhelp, mobile help, EPUB...)

     

    There are my comments to your requirements:

    • Must enable OS agnostic collaboration (usually just markups and commenting)

    CHECK: oXygen XML Author has some nice review features and runs on Windows, Mac OS and Linux.

    http://www.oxygenxml.com/demo/Review_Panel.html

     

            NOTE: My current solution is to output as PDF and save to Crocodoc personal (check them out!). So this requirement may be moot.

     

    Also nice, I like this Crocodoc.

     

    • Single source documentation that will output/accommodate (with little or no edits) to the following formats: XML/HTML5 (web publishing), and PDF. [also potentially CHM help format but this is a bonus]

     

    CHECK: DITA's source format is XML. Output or export to XML by any tool is usually ugly and therefore useless. oXygen XML Author can output to HTML5. For PDF output, you can use:

    • FrameMaker (if necessary with Leximation's  DITA-FMx plugin)
    • XSL-FO
    • DITA2Go (via Word, if you have strong nerves)

     

    • Excellent content/design control

     

    CHECK: DITA files can be validated to check whether the structure is OK. Style guides can be integrated in the DITA editors to check style guide compliance, for example:

    dita_style_guide_integrated_in_oXygen.png

     

    • Scalability (reliable content design - even with a 400 page count)

     

    CHECK: FrameMaker can easily generate a 400-page book from DITA-sourced content.

     

    • Corporate requirement: must play nice with git (gitorious.org) for source control

     

    CHECK: This website has been created with DITA-sourced content: http://www.hr.uottawa.ca/

    All the content is managed in a git repository.

     

    • External content links (i.e. images for easy updating)

     

    CHECK: all images are referenced, but you can also do this with topics and basically every element, using DITA's conref (= content  reference) mechanism:

     

    http://intdev.stc.org/2011/03/dita-1-2-whats-in-it-for-writers/

     

    • Links with relative paths (for portability)

     

    CHECK: all links have relative paths, for example:

    <image href="../_graphics/logo.png"/>

     

    • Very flexible layout design

     

    CHECK: DITA source files are XML files, so they can be published in many different ways, using different stylesheets for each output type. I presented a case study about this at the Information Energy conference and we also wrote a blog post about this:

     

    http://www.scripto.nu/en/case-study-fifthplay-4-manuals-for-the-price- of-1/

     

    You can see some examples here, generated from the same DITA source via FrameMaker:

     

    http://www.scripto.nu/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/fifthplay_user_manual .pdf

    http://www.scripto.nu/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/DELTA_gebruikershandl eiding.pdf

     

    • Flexible indexing, TOC, Footnotes

     

    CHECK: Yes, it's all there in DITA:

    http://docs.oasis-open.org/dita/v1.2/os/spec/common/indexing-d.html#in dexingdgroup

    http://docs.oasis-open.org/dita/v1.2/os/spec/langref/fn.html#fn

    http://docs.oasis-open.org/dita/v1.2/os/spec/langref/toc.html#toc

     

    • Output PDF, XML, HTML5

     

    CHECK: Yes, it's all there in the DITA editors:

     

    About the FrameMaker "end of life" rumour: I've been an Adobe-Certified FrameMaker instructor since 1996 and I've been hearing this rumour since then, so don't worry about it. And if you do worry about any tool's alleged end of life, then you've got another good reason to "go DITA" because it's an open standard, not a tool. And DITA XML is already supported by a dozen or so editors and even more content management systems.

     

    Cheers

     

    Yves Barbion

    www.scripto.nu

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Jul 31, 2013 8:53 AM   in reply to Yves Barbion

    Hi, Yves:

     

    Great presentation of a very valid way of working with FM and its related family of tools for producing a variety of outputs with a DITA foundation.

     

    Your enthusiatic presentation speaks well for the DITA workflow in relationship to Shawn's checklist of authoring tool features. However, converting authors' mindsets to the DITA-authoring mindset, getting committed buy-in from the team of content developers, and training everyone in the workflow to DITA, as I'm certain you know well, isn't trivial.

     

    So, along with determining an appropriate toolset for his requirements, Shawn would need to evaluate an appropriate authoring approach, whether it's DITA or another.

     
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