11 Replies Latest reply on Jun 20, 2012 11:13 PM by sssuuusssaaannn

    InDesign as an authoring platform

    MMcKinnon

      I've been using MsWord and FrameMaker to create a wide assortment of documents, from 2 page marketing pieces to 250+ page API documents. A wide assortment of formats and layouts, and running the full spectrum from all new content to heavily leveraged content. It looks like InDesign would be a great page layout tool (I'm sick to death of wrestling with Word and FrameMaker to get a good page layout), but I'm wondering how it serves as a writing platform.

      Does it serve well as a development platform, where I would be creating content, or is it mainly a page layout tool, like the old PageMaker?

      Opinoins from any writers out there?

      Thanks much!

        • 1. Re: InDesign as an authoring platform
          Peter Spier Most Valuable Participant (Moderator)

          I am not primarily a writer, so my opinion may not count for that much. I do my writing in a word processor, then import it and format it in ID.

           

          That said, ID now has features that would appeal to a writer, like smart text reflow that automatically adds and removes pages as you type or delete.

          • 2. Re: InDesign as an authoring platform
            MMcKinnon Level 1

            Thanks Peter. I downloaded the trial version and am playing around with recreating an existing doc, importing blocks of text and graphics and creating new, mucking about with layouts….

             

            Seems sweet! Certainly easier to deal with than FrameMaker or Word for complex docs.

             

            Now, if I can convince my boss to spend a few bucks……

             

             

             

            Best,

             

            Mitch McKinnon

            • 3. Re: InDesign as an authoring platform
              Peter Spier Most Valuable Participant (Moderator)

              For layout, I don't think you can beat ID, and I wouldn't be surprised if you could author a novel directly, too, but ID lack a lot of the more sophisticated capabilities of a dedicated word processor for scholarly or scientific work.

              • 4. Re: InDesign as an authoring platform
                MMcKinnon Level 1

                I just tried pasting a 25 page text flow from FrameMaker. I’m sure I’m not doing it right (I’ve got about 3 hours of dinking around with it), but it doesn’t seem to do the auto-flow (adding additional pages as needed). I need to find a manual/guide. Adobe help systems drive me nuts trying to find useful information (like pasting a multi-page text flow…).

                 

                 

                 

                Jury is still out. I like it for layout. Just not sure if it’s going to work for high volume content.

                • 5. Re: InDesign as an authoring platform
                  Peter Spier Most Valuable Participant (Moderator)

                  You need to read about Smart Text Reflow in the help files, I think. There are options that might affect how it works in your workflow. It's not  feature I use -- I want to be in control of adding pages, in general -- so I don't knkow how it interacts with copy/paste. I do know, though that if you copy from your Frame doc, paste into a text editor and save as a text file, you can auto-flow by PLACING the file and ID will add as many pages as you need.

                  • 6. Re: InDesign as an authoring platform
                    MMcKinnon Level 1

                    Very generous of you Peter. I appreciate it. I’ll look into that.

                    • 7. Re: InDesign as an authoring platform
                      peter minneapolis Level 4

                      MMcKinnon wrote:

                       

                      I've been using MsWord and FrameMaker to create a wide assortment of documents, from 2 page marketing pieces to 250+ page API documents. A wide assortment of formats and layouts, and running the full spectrum from all new content to heavily leveraged content. It looks like InDesign would be a great page layout tool (I'm sick to death of wrestling with Word and FrameMaker to get a good page layout), but I'm wondering how it serves as a writing platform.

                      Does it serve well as a development platform, where I would be creating content, or is it mainly a page layout tool, like the old PageMaker?

                      Opinoins from any writers out there?

                      Thanks much!

                      FrameMaker can do layouts, but you need to work differently from the normal one-continuous-text-flow-per-document method that is used for almost all technical manuals and other long docs. In FrameMaker, you can draw text frames on blank body pages, and you can connect them (InDesign and other layout programs call this "threading" frames) on the same page and/or across consecutive or non-consecutive pages, for "jumps."

                       

                      If you want to extend your FrameMaker layout abilities, search Google for terms like "FrameMaker connect text frames" and "FrameMaker page layouts" without quotes for details. Also, post a request on the Adobe FrameMaker user-to-user forum.

                       

                      InDesign, especially CS6, has many long document features that are similar to FrameMaker's, but some of them work differently. I suggest searching Google for each FrameMaker feature you'd want to use, but instead of "FrameMaker index," search for "InDesign index," without quotes. Also search Google for terms like "compare FrameMaker vs InDesign for long documents and books," without quotes. You'll want to compare how master pages work (search "InDesign master pages,") how to thread stories ("text flows" in FM-ese,) text variables, cross-references, tables, anchored frames, find/replace, creating and using books made of separate individual files, page numbering, list numbering, etc.

                       

                      InDesign can place (import) several text file formats, but not FrameMaker. FrameMaker can save as/export in MS Word, rtf, and plain text; InDesign can place these.

                       

                      You might want to look into the InDesign MIF Filter plug-in from dtptools.com. With it installed, InDesign can place FrameMaker MIF format files (MIF is Maker Interchange Format; FrameMaker saves as MIF.) MIF filter converts MIF files as best it can into InDesign files. Some features are converted better than others. The CS6 version of MIF Filter may not be shipping yet. Query DTP Tools' tech support. MIF Filter is free to use to convert MIF files, but you need to buy page credits, like phone minutes, to save the converted files. You can get an idea of MIF Filter's value for your docs for free; you just can't save them for free.

                       

                      Search Google for terms like "creating and using FrameMaker MIF files," without quotes.

                       

                      InDesign's IDML export format is a counterpart to FrameMaker's MIF; both file types can be opened in their respective applications and reproduce their original application format files. FrameMaker can't read IDML, but with the DTP Tools MIF Filter plug-in, InDesign can read MIF.

                       

                      If you use lots of cross-references, especially across files in books, some folks say that InDesign's x-refs are fragile. DTP Tools's Cross-References plug-in for InDesign makes more stable x-refs, and smarter than FrameMaker or InDesign.

                       

                      HTH

                       

                       

                      Regards,

                       

                       

                      Peter

                      _______________________

                      Peter Gold

                      KnowHow ProServices

                      • 8. Re: InDesign as an authoring platform
                        MMcKinnon Level 1

                        Thanks for your generous sharing of information, Peter.

                         

                        I was once a FrameMaker hot dog, but it’s been a long time since I’ve used it. Back to it now with v10, I’m just bothered by how Adobe seems to have neglected Frame’s development. I know it will do all the things I need to do, but I’m just not crazy about what it takes to accomplish those things. From playing around with ID, I’m intrigued by how easy it is to toss together a complex layout. But I’m also finding a long document can present some challenges. Nothing is perfect in the document creation world… All apps seem to have their good points and bad points.

                         

                         

                         

                        One thing (and just about the ONLY thing) I really like about Word is the easy and robust document review tools. Frame lacks that capability (buy Acrobat Pro, generate a reviewable PDF, then individually process each reviewer’s notes into the Frame document… yuck!). The Frame interface drives me nuts as well. I’m trying to revise documents from a predecessor, but the referenced graphics files are scattered and not in their referenced locations. I get lots of “missing file” messages, but the full file path doesn’t display, so I have to screw around for silly amounts of time to figure out what file is actually missing and then set out to go find it. Just one of dozens of issues. Just seems sloppy (I suspect Adobe is not interested in investing in FrameMaker development, both because of the limited sales volume and because they want to steer users to other, newer products.

                         

                         

                         

                        I’ll tinker with your suggestions before I make my InDesign decision.

                         

                         

                         

                        Thanks again for sharing.

                         

                         

                         

                        Mitch

                        • 9. Re: InDesign as an authoring platform
                          David W. Goodrich Level 3

                          Two minor points.  Reader X can "do" some commenting all by itself, sticky notes and highlighting, but the Pro version of Acrobat is still required to enable the types of comments more useful for copy-editing.  Also, I've barely worked with FrameMaker (and not since v. 5), but I was intrigued to learn that recent versions could import corrections made with  PDF comments.  ID can do this, too, with the Annotations for Adobe InDesign plug-in (which I haven't tried).

                           

                          David

                          • 10. Re: InDesign as an authoring platform
                            peter minneapolis Level 4

                            You're welcome, Mitch!

                             

                            "Toss together a complex layout" is a great way to unexpectedly bump into everything you haven't yet learned, and have a chance to figure it out using trial-and-error and your own mindset.  I'd be afraid of tossing, though, if I were working with a new tool and had a deadline. If time is short, a good book or training video approach gives efficient order to a learning experience, though it's someone else's order, not your own mindset. Search Google for terms like "recommended books to learn InDesign" without quotes.

                             

                            I'd be interested in seeing an outline of the steps you'd follow to create a new FrameMaker long document for your purposes, and how you tried to replicate the process in InDesign.

                             

                            As to broken file-path references in FrameMaker, or other applications, the reasons can vary according to what's been done to the original file set, assuming everything worked when last saved. Moving from one server or directory to another, renaming books and/or files, etc., are common causes. In some networked environments, documents that reference files on another server sometimes have problems from the servers losing synch with each other. If you have specific error messages, post your query on the FrameMaker forum, and, of course, search Google for terms like "FrameMaker referenced file failures," and "FrameMaker <include some text of the error message,>" without quotes.

                             

                             

                            HTH

                             

                             

                            Regards,

                             

                             

                            Peter

                            _______________________

                            Peter Gold

                            KnowHow ProServices

                             

                             

                            MMcKinnon wrote:

                             

                            Thanks for your generous sharing of information, Peter.

                             

                            I was once a FrameMaker hot dog, but it’s been a long time since I’ve used it. Back to it now with v10, I’m just bothered by how Adobe seems to have neglected Frame’s development. I know it will do all the things I need to do, but I’m just not crazy about what it takes to accomplish those things. From playing around with ID, I’m intrigued by how easy it is to toss together a complex layout. But I’m also finding a long document can present some challenges. Nothing is perfect in the document creation world… All apps seem to have their good points and bad points.

                             

                             

                             

                            One thing (and just about the ONLY thing) I really like about Word is the easy and robust document review tools. Frame lacks that capability (buy Acrobat Pro, generate a reviewable PDF, then individually process each reviewer’s notes into the Frame document… yuck!). The Frame interface drives me nuts as well. I’m trying to revise documents from a predecessor, but the referenced graphics files are scattered and not in their referenced locations. I get lots of “missing file” messages, but the full file path doesn’t display, so I have to screw around for silly amounts of time to figure out what file is actually missing and then set out to go find it. Just one of dozens of issues. Just seems sloppy (I suspect Adobe is not interested in investing in FrameMaker development, both because of the limited sales volume and because they want to steer users to other, newer products.

                             

                             

                             

                            I’ll tinker with your suggestions before I make my InDesign decision.

                             

                             

                             

                            Thanks again for sharing.

                             

                             

                             

                            Mitch

                            • 11. Re: InDesign as an authoring platform
                              sssuuusssaaannn Level 1

                              Yes, I've written several user guides and installation manuals using

                              InDesign exclusively.  The layout capabilities are fabulous, you can put

                              empty placeholder frames along with the text and add graphics later, there

                              are never glitches with the numbering and best of all, you know that when

                              you save and open again, the doc will look exactly the same as always with

                              the same custom styles that were created previously.  It was a steep

                              learning curve (I taught myself) but I highly recommend ID.  Only thing is,

                              convincing employers to use it, as most want Word or FM and ID/CS is a

                              pricey purchase.