I'll let others address the structure/ebook/RH questions.
> 4. We also need to produce PowerPoint slides ...
Is PPT or PPTX strictly necessary? For the last 20 years I've always done my slides as PDF directly from FrameMaker. It's pretty easy to paste or reflow content onto landscape pages, adjusting format defs for the larger text sizes required.
FM12 can output in ePub 3, responsive HTML5, Mobi, KF8, Web Help and Microsoft CHM formats along with the PDF format. Going through RoboHelp, adds another 12 output formats, so depending upon what you mean by "E-formats", FM12 may suffice.
FWIW, Acrobat XI can produce PowerPoint slides from PDFs. So you can satisfy the requirement using that route or as Error suggests, stick with PDF slides (and use the Microtype Presentation Assistant to help with the slides - http://microtype.com/timesavers_Assistants.html ).
Does RoboHelp help perfect the output of any of the formats that FrameMaker supports? In my past experience, the HTML output from FrameMaker was horrendous.
It's a completely different approach for FM now. FM12 uses a subset of the RH processing to "publish" those formats. (FWIW, you can still create the simplistic HTML output using the mapping tables).
There's a fair bit of control in the mapping of the FM tags and some customization to the skins that you can apply. IIRC, there just a bit more depth to the controls in RH.
Does it make a difference whether you're using FrameMaker, Structured FrameMaker or the new FrameMaker for XML Authors?
The FM XML Author tool is just an authoring tool (i.e. you need the full FM to set up the structured application for this tool to use, if it's not one of the canned ones) and it can not "publish" (except for a watermarked PDF that is meant for "reviews" only).
Either structured or unstructured modes will allow you to publish to the multiple formats.
The question of whether you should switch to structured or continue in unstructured, really depends upon your requirements and what sort of ROI you're expecting compared to how much you're willing to invest. You will need help implementing the structured authoring environment for your needs, otherwise you would not be asking this question. Some considerations include: do you need to translate your content, is your content re-used in other publications, is the content updated, how is the content supplied/generated, what sort of editing/reviews are done, what sort of issues are you trying to fix in your current workflow, etc.
If your content is not originally authored in FM, i.e. FM is just the publishing platform, then you may not gain that many benefits by switching to the structured FM environment. However, if this is your primary authoring environment, then structured FM is hard to beat for controlling consistency and guiding authors.
1. If FM XML Author can't publish, what's it's purpose?
2. Your list of considerations:
- translations: yes, to many spoken languages
- re-use: yes, both in the exact form across multiple books and repurposed across mulitple books
- updated: frequently
- authoring tool: we author directly in framemaker
- review/editing: all of our content is sent to technical review in PDF format and we do all editing in FrameMaker
- issues trying to fix: we need to streamline the process of going from FrameMaker to print publication, HTML5 web content and many e-formats.
1. When you have a large shop with many authors working with a structured XML-based application, you can deploy the FM XML Authoring tool to most of the staff for far less cost than a full FM license. The scenario assumes that the structured application is (already) developed using FM and that at least one FM seat is around (or from Adobe's prefered-POV, the FrameMaker Publishing Server @ $$$) to create the final outputs. This is primarily targeted at the DITA environment to compete against tools like Oxygen XML Author or Codex. It could be a consideration for your environment.
2. Your considerations:
- providing content in XML is one of the main reasons many content creators use structured FM, as this cuts down costs, since the translation vendor doesn't need to do the DTP and just stick to translating wht's between the tags. It also makes updating (small changes) much easier and more cost-effective to handle as you need to send out the deltas
- the DITA approach is designed for content re-use; everything is quite granular and that's where component content management systems come in to play (hold on to your wallet as many consultants assume you have deep pockets when shopping around for these)
- for frequent updates, having content in small modules (as in the DITA approach) can speed things up in the editing/review stages as only the changed modules need to be reviewed
- the structured FM authoring environment gives you control (for consistency, style, etc.) over your authors, i.e. they're forced to follow the rules (but setting things up in the first place is the big ticket item)
- FM12 now does provide a lot more output formats that may satisfy your requirements; however, you'll need to explore the full extent of customizability for the formats you support, to see if these are up to your standards (with XML content, you can take the content through other publishing routes)
- FM provides one of the richest PDF publication environments (for XML-based content), especially when adding thrid-party tools like Microtype's TimeSavers into the mix
You might want to contact Richard Hamilton at XML Press (http://xmlpress.net/) to find out about the pros & cons of a publisher using XML content and the tool sets in use.