Re: Frame vs. InDesign

Subject: Re: Frame vs. InDesign
From: "Paul Pehrson" <paulpehrson -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Mon, 2 Apr 2007 10:31:40 -0600

It will be interesting to see what Adobe does with the Frame/InDesign
products in the coming future. I'm eager to see what they will do, and if
Frame 8 is ever produced, if it will just be a re-branded Frame 7, not
unlike the latest release of RoboHelp.

In any case, there are a couple of Frame 7.x features that InDesign CS2
doesn't have, which I think are critical omissions for anybody considering
replacing Frame with InDesign. These omissions include:


- Running Headers and Footers. My Frame documentation template has
running headers and footers that reflect the heading levels in the document;
the document title always appears on right page headers, and the chapter
name always appears on left page footers. The text of the most recent
Heading 1 always appears on the right page footer, etc. InDesign doesn't do
running headers/footers, so I'd have to do these manually at the end of my
production cycle — the very last step, for fear that the document might
re-flow if any changes were added. This adds significant time to my
post-production activities, and make it nearly impossible to make
wide-reaching late changes to the documentation in InDesign. Frame allows me
to do this effortlessly; all I have to do is rebuild the book file and the
headings are always correct.
- Cross References. FrameMaker has a feature that lets you cross
reference other headings in your book. For example, if I am writing about a
feature and want to insert a reference to another chapter that deals with a
corollary feature, I can insert a variable that pulls the heading text I
want to point to, and the page that heading is on. If the document re-flows,
or if the heading text is changed, the cross reference link is updated. So
if I'm writing installation instructions, and I want to tell the user to see
chapter 9 for more information on account management, I can enter a cross
reference to do so. In InDesign, I'd have to just type the text in manually.
If the chapter number or page changed, I'd never know all the places in the
documentation that pointed to it.
- Conditional Text. The company I work for has government contracts
and private contracts alike. There are certain documentation requirements
for government contracts that we aren't required to include in our regular
product version. The software is also customizable for specific clients.
With Frame's conditional text, I can add all the information into the guide.
I mark the government-contract-specific text with a conditional text marker.
When I print, I can turn on the government text, or I can turn it off.
I can make two versions of the manual from the same file with a couple of
mouse clicks. The table of contents and cross references are all updated
throughout the guide. I don't have to maintain multiple guides for
government versus private sector clients.

Until InDesign includes some of these features, I won't be making the switch
for my book-length guides. Its not that I love Frame so much that I'll die a
slow death with it, but rather I owe it to my employer and audience to pick
the tool that does the best job at the current time for the process I'm
trying to follow. For me and my processes, that product is currently Frame.
If another product comes along that helps me be more productive, I'm willing
to make the switch. :)

Hope this helps...

Paul Pehrson
Midvale, UT



> However, InDesign needs a great boost in its
> > XML abilities for me to take it very seriously as a documentation app.
> >
> > I am also reluctant to embrace InDesign's great layout flexibility to
> > tech writers who should be concentrating more on the content than the
> > presentation through a major part of the process.
>
> [InDesign] is powerful,
> easy to use, and is gives me so many tools to meld text and graphic
> elements together with the only limit being my own creativity.
>
> I publish the magazine every two weeks, and started off in Word
> (because I had to start /somewhere/). However, after two nearly 40
> hour weeks wrestling with Word for issues One and Two, I picked up CS2
> and learned enough of InDesign to make the transition on-the-fly
> between issues Two and Three without the gentle reader being the
> wiser.
>
> As much as I love InDesign for producing the magazine, I would not
> consider using it for the sort of long, text-based docs that Frame
> handles so very well. I have no idea what the new CS3 flavor of
> InDesign holds. Perhaps there will come a day when InDesign takes the
> place of FrameMaker for technical documentation, but as of CS2, that
> day has not yet arrived (imo, ymmv).
>

--
Paul Pehrson
Midvale, UT
www.paulpehrson.com blog.paulpehrson.com
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Follow-Ups:

References:
Re: Frame vs. InDesign: From: David Neeley
Re: Frame vs. InDesign: From: John Cook

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