I would create the text in a text editing program like work. I use very strictly format styles. I make the drawings in Illustrator, export them as png and insert them into Word for my orientation.
Later I import the file into InDesign, delete the imported styles to replace them with predefined InDesign styles, the used png files I replace to the original ai files.
At the end I do microtypographic adjustments with GREP. I have those predefined and saved for future use.
I'd say: do both. No, seriously. I'd write my content in my Text Editor of Choice, then I'd place and link the text file (it's a preference, if you like this idea I can figure out exactly where it is). If I needed to make changes in text, I'd do it in the linked file, and then update my link in InDesign.
If you foresee needing to keep changes harmonized while making text edits in either InDesign or Your Text Editor, I'd suggest writing it in Google Docs and using Em Software's DocsFlow.
Joel's idea is not unlikely, since markdownID can be applied to any existing file. One could import a linked text, then apply markdownID to it. If the text is edited with an external editor, markdownID can be applied again. Working in small chunks is what I want to do in Scrivener, so there is no need to do major reformatting to the book.
However, Willi's approach is highly organized, and I would be better to follow it as much as possiible: complete my text as much as possible on the external editor, then import to InDesign and do all the remaining edits there.
I'm accustomed to conceive my manuals as a mix of text and graphic examples, but this can easily be done by using the low-quality previews Willi is suggesting to use. Grabbing a snapshot is extremely easy, and careful naming within the ! markdown syntax will help me relocate the original file. Scrivener can export DOC (not RTF) files containing inline pictures, so these previews can remain in the imported text as a visual indication.
Halfway in the making of the manual, I can say that creating content in InDesign (CS6) is not feasible. The program is extremely slow and unrealiable. The spinning beachball takes most of the working time, and crashes are extremely frequent.
My book is not very complex. A single flow of text, with the simplest layout, and a few inline illustrations. A spare amount of cross-references, a few conditions. The book is made of less of ten chapters, with the longest no longer than 150 A5 pages.
As it is, I would consider InDesign a final layout app only. Writing and proofreading has to be done on a rough copy (assuming the proofreading do agree to work on a preliminary copy, and not the final work). InDesign should come into play when it is time to prepare the layout for printing.
I hope to read of someone more successful than me. Going back to FrameMaker and Windows is not my dream (plus, producing PDF files with FrameMaker on Windows has been a nightmare for me). Unfortunately, lucky technical writers using InDesign are very jealous, and don't seem to want to release their experience on the web.
Unfortunately, lucky technical writers using InDesign are very jealous, and don't seem to want to release their experience on the web.
I'm a technical writer too and I'm always looking for improvement of my working flow. I'm on a windows machine writing and formatting with CS5.5. I choose this workflow cause I need to use a lot of images with call-outs numbers and cross references.
Not that bad, for my experience, until I need to change an entire chapter or more than few paragraphs... all manuals are single file (50-90 pages) and change something at the same time on different manuals can be really a pain!
I read the comments here really carefully but I can't see how the workflows proposed can fit my need...