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Re : OS X (was Re: Windows ME)

(Beware : long study.)

Bill Briggs wrote :

> I can think of lots of things that would be a lot higher priority than the
> UI overhaul. I'm betting most users are of similar mind.

Apologising at once for my bad English, I dare add a few words to this
interesting thread about the core values and lacks of FrameMaker. I have no deep
programming knowledge, but a serious bit of practical experience.

In our french-speaking part of Europe, and our business (fine book publishing),
FM is simply unknown. I had the idea to try it when we had complicated essays to
layout, with footnotes, indexes, etc. Most publishing offices do it in XPress
when they care about how their pages will look, and have time to spend. Many
others are too snob to admit it, but they simply do their books with MSWord.
Here it takes time, too, but it also looks ugly.

We have a very small team for a huge editing job : about 120 books a year. As it
is mostly fine literature and non-conformistic essays, without public or private
funds, we cannot afford any waste of time or money.

Well, from the first try, FrameMaker has become our main tool from text
processing to layout, and now to e-publishing. All our books are made with FM,
our catalogues are based on MIF exports from a FileMaker database, and we even
use FM for some book covers and ads. As our visual style is quite sober, we have
no need for Illustrator or FreeHand, and use QuarkXpress for cover jobs mainly
because French printers are reluctant to unusual software. FM's typography is
less subtle, especially for hyphenation, but who notices it ?

I do not understand some people's complaints about "learning curves" and other
paedagogical abstractions. I am discovering something new in FM every week, but
people commited to standard layout jobs found it easier and less stressing to
prepare books with FM than with that famous and heavy text processor. The
predictability of FM's behaviour and the strong "railing" of a template-based
system allowed us to train and set to work people without any DTP experience in
a few days.

Here we come to the point. To me, FrameMaker's outdated UI seems rather an
advantage. It doesn't spend memory on visual effects, doesn't cover your screen
with boxes, and almost allows you to leave your mouse aside. Thus, we still
effectively run FM 5.5.3 on a six year old 7100/80 Mhz PowerMac. Try to do the
same with Office 2000... And try to make a book with Office 2000...

Of course, when you shift to a Graphite G4 with a Studio Display, MacOS 9 and
other related software, FM looks like some old military truck parked in front of
the Montreux Palace Hotel. To this I'd remark that our firm's vans are not built
for comfort, but for efficiency.

There is something deeper. FrameMaker's inner discipline has obviously something
to do with the mental structure of its users. People working with FM are more
concerned with the contents of their work than, say, XPress or InDesign users.
FM forces you to think and organise your job -- because it hates overrides --,
while other layout software requires mostly manual, page-to-page work. For
similar outputs, you use quite different brain skills.

Once I wondered why such useful and clever software was ignored in our business
as well as in the whole Macintosh press, and so mistreated by its owner Adobe.
Now things are clearer. The whole small-computer world is getting devoted to
heavy tasks : gaming, fun, and multimedia futility. Images, and not words, are
becoming the main communication items. Hardware becomes outdated as soon as you
put it on your desktop. Software gets fatter and clumsier at every new version,
in order to meet often imaginary new needs.

But the needs of the people really using their computer as a tool are so
smaller, they increase so slower than the needs of those who see it as a toy or
as a home divinity, that they are definitely not an interesting commercial

FrameMaker has serious and irritating lacks -- those stupid wandering footnotes,
for example --, but rethinking it would probably cost more than what the Framers
community seems worth to the marketing gurus.

I apologise again, not only for the language of this posting, but also for its

Slobodan Despot, <despot@bluewin.ch>
Foreign Editor
E D I T I O N S  L'A G E  D'H O M M E

(F)  5, rue Ferou
     75006 Paris

(CH) Rue de Geneve 10
     1000 Lausanne 9

(YU) Knez Mihailova 40
     11000 Beograd

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