4 Replies Latest reply on Dec 27, 2007 6:08 AM by Tech Writer KC

    FrameMaker vs RoboHelp

    Tech Writer KC Level 1

      I've been asked to look into the possibility of switching our help system software from RoboHelp to FrameMaker, primarily due to the fact that the primary business unit in the company uses FM, and this would facilitate the need for them to integrate elements of our help file into theirs as needed (i.e. coordinating separate help systems for currently separate product lines resulting from a merger).

      Currently we use RH 5, although the original/current plan is to upgrade to RH 7 around February.

      Because our documentation is almost solely help files (with almost no printed documentation), FM's word processing capabilities do not seem especially relevant, so I'm left wondering what general advantage/disadvantages FM has in comparison to RH as a help authoring tool:

      1. What advantages does FM have over RH? (from my research so far, support for DITA seems to be one example of an advantage)

      2. What disadvantages does FM have in relation to RH? What would we be specifically losing out on?

      3. What, if any, integration capabilities does FM have with RH that would be relevant for us? (again, given that we do not work with larger documentation such as manuals).

      Although I believe the current thinking is to either stay with RH or switch to FM, using both (with or without the full Technical Communication Suite) may also be an option if there's enough benefit to using both.

      Thanks in advance for any information regarding this issue!
        • 1. FrameMaker vs RoboHelp
          johndaigle Level 4
          Hi, and welcome to the Forums!
          You have obviously done some good homework on both applications. I'm tempted to say that RoboHelp 7 makes the most sense because of your comment about "almost no printed documentation." However, because of your company's "cultural" affinity for FrameMaker, it might be wise to use RoboHelp 7 within the Technical Communication Suite as a way of future-proofing any direction the company may be heading as new technologies (like DITA) emerge.

          FrameMaker is well-regarded as "industrial-strength" software for print-oriented documentation and manuals with secondary focus on producing online help. Conversely, RoboHelp's strength has been on creating online help with a secondary focus on generating printed documentation. Now, with the Technical Communication Suite an author can marry the advantages of both. It provides a "platform to grown on" as an organization might scale to emerging technologies like DITA.

          With the Tech Comm Suite you get the ability to more cleanly import FrameMaker files into your RoboHelp projects and then "link" the FrameMaker files and update them as the original FM file changes. I don't know how useful that is for you right now, but it is worth a look.

          Also, not to be glanced over is the nice integration with Adobe Captivate which is rapidly growing as a method of incorporating animated Quick Start videos into RoboHelp online help and knowledgebases.

          Another thing to think about with the Tech Comm Suite is that Adobe has mentioned they are putting a lot accelerated development effort into enhancing this platform. Because of this, I think the suite is a good investment particularly because the upgrade price right now is really attractive.

          That's just my 2 cents. Frankly I am a RoboHelp developer and not that much of a practitioner of FrameMaker. But as I continue to work with FrameMaker colleagues who provide their files to me, having the suite helps me import their work into my projects more seamlessly.
          Also, be sure to check out the Adobe Tech Comm Blog as you make your evaluation.

          Hope this helps.
          • 2. Re: FrameMaker vs RoboHelp
            Tech Writer KC Level 1

            Thanks for the information. As the TCS represents a possible third option, I'm still looking to narrow down specifically what we might expect to gain/lose if we went with FrameMaker as the help authoring tool.

            As a help tool, is there anything that RH does that FM would not be able to handle/duplicate? Our help system is probably in need of an overhaul, but probably nothing terribly complex is needed. Although I'm very interested in the DITA philosophy, I'm not sure if we'll be able to use it here (since the home office may not be following it).

            My guess is that FM has the basics covered - is this a safe assumption?

            Regarding the TCS, would there be any benefit from creating a help file in FM and then exporting it to RH to actually create the CHM / XML? My admittedly limited knowledge makes me think that this would be redundant as our original FM files will effectively already be help files in and of themselves, not a manual or similar document being broken up into help files.

            My apologies if my questions seem too basic - although I've done tech writing for a couple years now, this is my first time being "the help file guy" so I've not had much experience with RH, FM, DITA, or similar help file issues / technologies / etc.

            Again, thanks in advance!
            • 3. Re: FrameMaker vs RoboHelp
              johndaigle Level 4
              To clarify. This make come as a shock, but FrameMaker in an of itself, is not an online help authoring tool per se!

              It is for creating printed docs and other single source outputs. It does not natively provide an output for traditional online help outputs like .CHM, Webhelp, etc. The reason it is perceived as a help authoring tool, is that before Adobe acquired RoboHelp in the Macromedia merger, FrameMaker authors often used a third-party solution like Mif2Go or WebWorks ePublisher to "finish the job" of online help output. Now, a third party app is no longer necessary when FrameMaker is paired with its "sibling", Adobe RoboHelp.

              What would you gain with FrameMaker in addition to RoboHelp? The benefits of using FrameMaker as the primary tool would be two things I can think of. One is you get the benefit of the learning curve of all the authors in the primary business unit (you mentioned in another post) who already know and are comfortable with FrameMaker and need it to produce complicated printed documentation. Secondly, because it has a well-respected Structured Authoring WYSIWYG interface for creating XML and DITA documents, it may provide support for those outputs IF those are in your future. (Only you can answer that.)

              Otherwise, if your main task is simply to produce online help, it seems to me that RoboHelp 7 by itself will take you as far as you want to go. In addition, you are already using RoboHelp, so there is certainly less learning curve for you than there would be if you had to learn FrameMaker from scratch. Plus, from your remarks, it seems you are not really tasked to produce printed docs, so I can't really see why you would adopt FrameMaker unless you need the features I discussed above.

              • 4. Re: FrameMaker vs RoboHelp
                Tech Writer KC Level 1
                Thanks for the clarification. We were under the impression that our parent company was only using FM - I'll have to have them clarify what exactly they're using up there!