4 Replies Latest reply on Aug 15, 2012 8:05 AM by peter minneapolis

    Id for techn. maintenance docs?

    hkwint

      Hi forum members,

       

      Sorry for the question not being very specific and open to discussion, but I'm pretty new to Adobe software for creating documents.

       

      Let me first introduce our department:

       

      Currently, we have a team of about 12 engineers who maintain ~120 MS Word documents of 20-100 pages with 'service' instructions / settings tables, 'fault finding help' etc. for machines in our factory. This includes tables, instruction lists, and lots of "picture-arrow-text". We're mostly on Windows 7 / Word 2007, though some of us are still on XP / Word 2003.

       

      Of course, MS Word has some limitations. For example, the layout of pictures / arrows / notes relating to those pictures is always a problem. Also, it's hard for users (mechanics) to quickly find the right page / paragraph. It's hard to add 'navigational buttons' in Word, link from the text to pitures, do the layout of lists etc.

       

      Of course, in these days, training funds are limited. I have suggested FrameMaker 11 for content editors and 'PDF viewer' for users, though an old colleague of mine who worked with both Fm and Id said Id is easier to learn, and if our engineers want to make minor changes, they could work without much training with Id while Fm would be harder.

       

      Trend is to use more pictures and less text, and that's where my ex-colleague told Id is 'easier'. The content should be 'easy to find' for users, so we're thinking about HTML-like menu's: a kind of 'hierarchy' of files who can be 'interlinked'. So, a TOC linking to different chapters, and those chapters containing multiple paragraphs. Some paragraphs might contain multiple 'pages', for example multiple 'error explanation'.

       

      My bosses stressed, they are longing for some 'app-like' documentation system which also works on tablets, in which mechanics can find the right paragraph in the total of 12000+ pages (growing in the future) "with a few clicks".

       

      HTML doesn't always display the same though, because of screen sizes / word wrap / browser differences, so PDF may be our best option. The question is: Can one in InDesign make such 'hierarchies', or is it better to put everything in one big file?

       

      Those PDF-files have to be loaded over the WiFi network though, so they cannot be too big.

       

      Does anyone have experience with a dozen or so of engineers having to work with InDesign (or Fm for that part) without / with only limited training? Of course I'm worried they will not like it when they have to ask somebody else to make minor changes to 'their' documents.

       

      Does anybody have experiences with 'creating file hierarchies / menu's" with PDF to enable fast searching and keep file sizes limited?

       

      Is InDesign CS6 the right tool for the job, or might Framemaker 11 be better?

       

      Are there more people who switched from MS Word to Id (or Fm?) for maintenance documentation, and was it worth the hassle / cost?

       

      I've done lots of reading about Id / Fm the past few days, and I also understood that Fm is no 'primary' product of Adobe anymore (2nd class citizen?), while Id in the past was mainly for 'artists' and flyers / posters / brochures and the like, but Id changed in recent version to support 'documentation' as well. is my feeling right that Adobe is slowly merging all Fm features into Id? Is Id more 'aimed at the future'?

       

      Thanks in advance for your replies / thoughts.

        • 1. Re: Id for techn. maintenance docs?
          peter minneapolis Level 4

          I was a FrameMaker trainer and user from version 3 through FM 8. I've been a volunteer participant in many FM and ID and Acrobat pre-release programs. My personal opinion is that neither FM nor ID are easy for a casual user to "pick up," and creating materials in them for output to PDF for further manipulation in Acrobat or other electronic distribution formats also are challenges. Nor are they easy for a skilled user in FM or ID to switch to the other. If the users in question have demanding primary project responsibilities, such as product development, and time, effort, and training budget for learning the documentation tools are minimal, much craziness lies ahead.

           

          I suggest that your team first evaluate the successes in the current MS Word workflow and identify the problem areas, and see what improvements might be needed to meet the goals, what success might be expected, and what buy-in from all the team members who'd need to change their working methods and/or learn new ones. Word is much maligned, and in some cases it deserves the criticisms. However, because many Word users have just "picked it up," the high degree of self-invented methods at play often are the causes of Word problems.

           

          If you haven't already posted your questions on the Adobe FM user forum, techwr-l.com, and frameusers.com, it would be worth your while to do so, and to ask about workflow suggestions for the kinds of workers in your workgroup, for any of your proposed plans. Tools matter, too, of course. The several generations of experienced technical writers and documentation managers, on these forums have been through discussions and implementations of workflow and tool-choice strategies.

           

           

          HTH

           

           

          Regards,

           

           

          Peter

          _______________________

          Peter Gold

          KnowHow ProServices

          1 person found this helpful
          • 2. Re: Id for techn. maintenance docs?
            hkwint Level 1

            Thanks for your answer,

             

            It's good to hear this from someone who has experience training new users. I think using ID / FM without training at this moment is not a viable solution to our 'problem'. Also, we lack other colleagues in this company to help with ID / FM.

             

            Certainly we could improve on our current Word-documents, and look for a solution which better suits or needs.

            Also, thanks for the suggestions of the other forums, those are helpful.

             

            Regards,

             

            Hans

            • 3. Re: Id for techn. maintenance docs?
              sssuuusssaaannn Level 1

              Hi H,

               

              I can't give you too much advice on your specific queries, but as someone

              who has written several sets of user and installation guides in ID and now

              in FM, I can tell you that ID is much easier to work with if you require

              graphics.  Also the panels for paragraph design, etc, are easier to access.

              The only advantage I can see with FM so far is that it works like a word

              processor, i.e., when you're finished with one page, you're automatically

              presented with the next page to type on.  This has to be carefully set up

              in ID.

              Hyperlinking and such are quite easy in ID; I haven't had a chance to work

              with that in FM.

              Perhaps you're looking for 'structured' FM; I don't think that exists in ID

              but I worked with an older version.

              I realize this mail was more about 'input' and your questions are about

              'output', but I'm willing to bet ID handles that better as in my eyes, it's

              a more sophisticated tool.

               

              Good luck!

               

              Susan

              • 4. Re: Id for techn. maintenance docs?
                peter minneapolis Level 4

                Hi, sssuuusssaaannn:

                 

                I hope my comments are helpful in comparing ID and FM.


                sssuuusssaaannn wrote:

                 

                Hi H,

                 

                I can't give you too much advice on your specific queries, but as someone

                who has written several sets of user and installation guides in ID and now

                in FM, I can tell you that ID is much easier to work with if you require

                graphics. 

                 

                ID's graphic drawing tools and press output controls are far beyond FM's, but no easier than FM, IMO.


                Also the panels for paragraph design, etc, are easier to access.

                 

                Not sure what you're referring to. FM's paragraph, character, and table designers are as easy to display as ID's. ID's typographic controls do exceed FM's, important in design docs, but not as necessary in tech docs. If you mean that ID's styles offer far more typographic and text formatting controls, I agree!

                 

                The only advantage I can see with FM so far is that it works like a word

                processor, i.e., when you're finished with one page, you're automatically

                presented with the next page to type on.  This has to be carefully set up

                in ID.

                 

                Agreed, the new Smart Text Reflow feature in recent ID releases, very useful in long documents like tech pubs, is complicated for new users to understand, and it isn't automatically present as FM's, but once set up in a document or template document, it's almost as straightforward to use. (IMO FM is to word processors as ID is to MS Publish.)

                 

                Hyperlinking and such are quite easy in ID; I haven't had a chance to work

                with that in FM.

                 

                Hyperlinking and cross-referencing in FM are about as easy as in ID; however, FM's cross-references can be navigated by Ctrl-Click in an FM document (no need to visit a panel,) capture footnote numbers (important for some users,) don't slow FM down, and are more reliable across book component files than ID's (based on quantity of postings on respective forums.) 

                 

                Perhaps you're looking for 'structured' FM; I don't think that exists in ID

                but I worked with an older version.

                 

                Structured editing for XML and similar outputs has been built into recent FM releases. (Previously it was a more expensive separate product.) For authors, ID's XML tagging feature isn't as straightforward to use.

                 

                I realize this mail was more about 'input' and your questions are about

                'output', but I'm willing to bet ID handles that better as in my eyes, it's

                a more sophisticated tool.

                 

                Agreed, ID's outputs for press and electronic publications exceed FM's, though recent releases have new and enhanced electronic publishing features.


                SOME FM ADVANTAGES FOR TECHNICAL DOCUMENTATION:

                 

                * Unlike ID, FM's text variables can wrap across line endings.

                 

                * Cross-reference building blocks can retrieve more of a source's context information; for example, "Paragraph text" in chapter NN, section NN, filename.

                 

                * A paragraph with FM's run-in paragraph property (a paragraph without a line break) can be followed on the same line by a normal paragraph, so it can be retrieved by the TOC process, and by cross-references. ID's nested styles offer some similar behaviors.

                 

                Good luck!

                 

                Susan

                 

                 

                HTH

                 

                 

                Regards,

                 

                 

                Peter

                _______________________

                Peter Gold

                KnowHow ProServices