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  1. #1
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    Word versus FrameMaker (2000)

    Hi,

    We're about to have a big Word versus FrameMaker debate at work. I'm comfortable with Word, but others want FrameMaker. What arguments should I use in favor of Word?

    Thanks,
    Bob

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    Super Moderator jscher2000's Avatar
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    Re: Word versus FrameMaker (2000)

    I've never used FrameMaker. I understand that for technical documentation, it's an excellent tool. Word obviously has better interoperability and support than any other word processor, and it can be customized/programmed/automated by mere mortals. Beyond that, you're on your own. <img src=/S/grin.gif border=0 alt=grin width=15 height=15>

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    Re: Word versus FrameMaker (2000)

    If you are really flexible on what software to use I would also be looking at other software besides those two. Have you considered AuthorIT? It is a different way of working that may be a good fit for your needs. It doesn't totally remove the need for Word but it uses Word as one of its output formats.

    Some of the arguments in favour of Word are:
    1. Price - most desktops already have it loaded so it is effectively free
    2. Training - most staff/new hires already have experience with Word. How much training do you need to give to get users to the same productivity level with Framemaker?
    3. Word macros are fantastic - Frame only has macros if you run it on the Unix platform
    4. Revision tracking is possible in Word (despite its shortcomings)
    5. Compatability of files - pretty much everyone you send files to can read and edit the Word files but very few can read the Frame files and exporting to a common format is time-consuming and tiresome.
    6. Footnotes and Endnotes
    7. Framemaker may also have a shaky lifespan - Adobe dropped the Mac version about six months ago and puts most development effort nowdays into InDesign. Word is not going to be dropped in a hurry.
    8. Customisability - Word is easy to customise in terms of menus, keyboard shortcuts, toolbars.

    Framemaker makes good ground in:
    1. Colour separations and preparation of files for offset printing
    2. Stability of files - things tend to stay the way you set them for longer
    3. More standards compliant XML files
    4. Better typography - the text just looks better when done in Frame
    Andrew Lockton, Chrysalis Design, Melbourne Australia

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    Re: Word versus FrameMaker (2000)

    Hi Bob,

    About 90% of my time at work is spent in either Word or Frame, divided about equally. I regularly convert documents back and forth between the two programs, have created templates in both applications, and regularly script both (Word using VBA, Frame using a plug-in called FrameScript, along with some Perl). So I consider myself somewhat qualified to offer an opinion on their relative merits.

    Which is most appropriate for your organization depends on what type of documents you produce. If it's a variety of things like letters, reports, and short, single-component documents, Word's the way to go. But if you're looking at very long, complex documents, full of things like cross references and numbered lists, Frame wins hands down. If I had to choose which one to use for a 1200-page, 23-chapter book that had over a thousand tables, more than a thousand images, and hundreds of cross references, it wouldn't really even be a choice -- Frame can handle something like that with no fear of crashes or file instability. And if there's a need for the documents to be professionally printed, the typography quality in Frame is much better than Word's.

    It is true that Adobe hasn't been enthusiastic about Frame as of late, but I wouldn't be too worried about that, at least until/unless InDesign can match the long-document features of Frame, I don't see Adobe ticking off all those well-heeled Frame users (i.e., big tech houses) by orphaning the product. That said, we still use Frame 5.5.6, which Adobe hasn't supported for some time. We haven't needed to upgrade because Frame was good enough in 1997 to do market-leading tech books in 2005. A google search for copies of Frame 6, which is about 5 years old, is evidence of its continued utility. On the other hand, I can get Word 2002 for well under $50.

    Then again, I much prefer Word as an authoring environment, and it's a *lot* easier to learn. One of the reasons Frame works so well for us is that we don't create the content in Frame, we just use Frame to implement existing content.

    But you wanted arguments in favor of Word. Here goes, with the likely Framer response ...

    * Word is easier to learn (no argument there)
    * Word is easier to customize (true, but Frame does expose their API, and also with a 3rd-party plug in, FrameScript, you can achieve VBA-like forms and menu customizations, along with event-handlers)
    * Word is easier to script (sometimes. But again, there's FrameScript, and there's also the MIF format -- a lossless ASCII file format -- which is a *very* powerful tool for manipulating doc content with a script)
    * Word is better supported (probably true. But there's still a very active, and highly skilled user base out there willing to help each other out)
    * Word supports cascading styles (I wish Frame did that)
    * Word is cheaper (you get what you pay for)

    Just my two cents. I'd be happy to offer additional pro-Frame arguments for specific points, if you want to prepare for the debate. Don't get me wrong, I like both programs. I wouldn't choose to replace either with the other entirely.

    Cheers,

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    Re: Word versus FrameMaker (2000)

    I've been teaching myself FrameMaker, and I've found it interesting. I can understand people's enthusiasm--the information-rich dialog boxes, the organization of elements, etc.

    Still, I'm not finding a lot of features that I've gotten used to with Word:

    -- Macros
    -- More than one undo
    -- Multiple items on the clipboard
    -- Detailed change tracking
    -- Customizable buttons and toolbars
    -- Visible doc path (so I know exactly what I'm working on)
    -- Style and font dropdown boxes that show what styles and fonts look like
    -- Ability to open in HTML

    Is there anything in the basic FrameMaker (that is, without add-ins like FrameScript) that does any of this? The above items (particularly the macros) have saved me a lot of time.

    Thanks,
    Bob

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    Re: Word versus FrameMaker (2000)

    Well, you can do Macros in the simplest of senses -- recording keystrokes. But this is more poweful than it sounds at first glance. Every single command that can be executed from the GUI can be done with a keystroke, so macros can end up doing quite a bit.

    The Compare Documents feature is fairly detailed, providing insertion/deletion colored text, change bars in the margins, and a handy summary document that lists each change by page and description.

    As for the visible doc path, I get just that on Windows and Unix (see attached screenshot). Perhaps you've changed a default setting somewhere. Check maker.ini.

    For customizable buttons and toolbars (and macros), I'd really recommend FrameScript. It's quite reasonably priced, and lets you do all kinds of custom dialogs, menus, etc. You can even do event handlers (many more than are available in Word VBA).
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    Re: Word versus FrameMaker (2000)

    Thanks for the tips. They will help me adjust to FrameMaker.

    I think you addressed this a little in an earlier post, but have you gotten into many cost-of-ownership debates with Word and Frame? We also work a lot with the other Microsoft Office tools (PowerPoint, Excel, Access). Since we're already buying Word as part of the Office package, I've been asking management why we need Frame.

    Also, one area where Frame seems to have an advantage is with the kinds of PDFs it produces. My understanding is that it can hook in chapter links with master TOCs and indexes, something we can't do with Word. Do you know of any tools that would enable Word to do this same thing? Right now, we build Word master TOCs and indexes in separate files from the chapter, appendix and other files.

    Thanks,
    Bob

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    Re: Word versus FrameMaker (2000)

    Since we create PDFs for printing (rather than viewing via Acrobat) I don't have much experience with creating links and bookmarks. If you're looking for a Word solution, I'd suggest checking out the pdfmark PostScript operator (try http://www.pdflib.com/pdffiles/pdfmark_primer.pdf for one reference). You could conceivably use that in conjunction with a Word PRINT field to achieve the desired result. Frame has built-in support for the pdfmark operator (as expected, being from Adobe). Be warned, PostScript is not for the faint of heart.

    As for cost of ownership, it's a non-issue for us -- it's apples and oranges. Word is wholly unsuitable for making professional, commercial-quality books. Typography, H&J, color separation, etc. just isn't there. Word is fine as an authoring tool, and for reports, contracts, etc., but not for actually producing our books. Your situation may be different, certainly. A more realistic (and ongoing) debate for us is between Frame and InDesign, not Frame and Word.

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    Super Moderator WebGenii's Avatar
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    Re: Word versus FrameMaker (2000)

    Let me add a very late comment to this thread.
    FrameMaker has an excellent user support group. It is the only one I've found that equals the lounge for expertise and speed of response.
    Google for FrameUsers...
    [b]Catharine Richardson (WebGenii)
    WebGenii Home Page
    Moderator: Spreadsheets, Other MS Apps, Presentation Apps, Visual Basic for Apps, Windows Mobile

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