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RE: Frame vs. word AGAIN

Here is some stuff I sent to an Australian correspondent recently.



FrameMaker is cross-platform, running on UNIX (HP-UX, SunOS, Solaris),
Windows, and Macintosh.

It is extremely stable and reliable, and moreover dumps any open documents
to disk in recovery files.  I have used FrameMaker for over ten years from
version 3.0 on Macintosh, HP-UX, SunOS, and Windows and have NEVER lost any
work from a crash.  (On the other hand, I have lost a lot of work from my
own stupidity, e.g. Select All, Delete, Save, Close ... ooops!)

It works well with Acrobat PDF, so that the table of Contents and Index
entries become hyperlinks, and cross-references are also hyperlinks.  (Word
indexes do not hyperlink.)  You can embed many commands in FrameMaker that
automatically transfer to PDF.

It uses a model of a master book document that controls the ordering and
pagination of the separate files that make up the chapters, etc.   (Word's
corresponding master document is buggy and crash prone and has not worked
since it was introduced right up to WordXP.)  This allows colleagues to
work on different chapters at the same time.

FrameMaker numbered paragraphs work -- ALL the time.  And you can create
any combination of numbering and include standard text as part of the
number, e.g. "Chapter 6, Cooking worms" in the chapter title but "6 Cooking
worms ... 93" in the table of Contents.

You can have an unlimited number of page layouts, mix landscape and
portrait format, and switch between single and multiple columns without
having to wrestle with Word sections.

FrameMaker philosophy is to supply very few built-in formats.  So you get
about a dozen paragraphs formats and four character formats, and two table
formats in a new document based on the defaults.   FrameMaker's strength is
that you can build you own catalogues of para, char, table, xref, page,
variables, etc. formats to create a purpose-built environment for a
particular target document.  On the other hand, Word gives you a lot of
templates for tables, numbered paragraphs, etc. straight out of the box but
makes it VERY difficult to create new ones of your own (just try and create
your own table format or a custom numbered paragraph format).

Most of FrameMaker's dialogues are non-modal, that is, you can leave them
open permanently, floating at the edge of your doc.  You don't have to
click Okay to close them -- just click Apply or whatever to effect the
change.  This is particularly useful during template design, when you
continually tweak a format until you get it just right.

You can import graphics and text fragments by reference, that is, they are
stored externally to the document, so when you update a screen dump with a
new version, all instances of it within used by any document automatically
update.  This is better than OLE which stores (a) a version of the graphic
within the doc and (b) also in an external file; this can bloat your docs
if you have a lot of graphics.

You can make complex cross-references within and across files by inserting
a single Xref format.  For example, 'see  Chapter 6, "Cooking worms", on
page 96' is implemented by pasting in the following xref format by
selecting it from a list of xref formats: "<l Link>Chapter\ <$paranumonly>,
'<$paratext>', on page\ <$pagenum><Default  Font>", which also colours the
xref blue and underlines.  This would require 5 operations in Word.  As you
may have guessed, you can design your own cross-references to suit your
house style manual.  You can also design your own table of Contents entries
("hey, let's put the page number first, then the heading!"), and Index
entries with full control over typography, punctuation, page numbers, and
whatever.  Indexes can point to section numbers rather than page numbers if
you wish!  And you can use chapter page numbers (2-1, 2-2, 2-3, etc.)
instead of straight-through numbering (1, 2, 3, etc) on pages, Contents,
and Index.

FrameMaker lacks some things available in Word but many of these are
addressed by third-party plug-ins:

@    Outliner -- Enhance gives you outline and normal view in a separate
window, and allows
     you to structure a document by dragging headings and their children
@    Glossay -- FrameMaker's inbuilt variables allow you to insert short
strings automatically
     up to 255 chars; AutoText allows you to insert graphics, text, tables,
etc. -- anything
     allowed in FrameMaker -- like glossary does.
@    Index editor -- IXgen allows you to edit an Index and automatically
update the entries embedded in the files.  (Word does not have anything
like this.
@    Index cleaner -- Index Tools Pro adds continuations when entries break
over a page, combines single orphan subentries with main entry, allow
in-text entries like Word (FM uses a Marker dialogue to embed entries),
@    Scripting -- FrameScript is a MUCH more powerful language than Visual
Basic for Word.
@    Template conversion -- Paragraph Tools maps and converts legacy
paragraph formats to new preferred formats (Word does not have this).

FrameMaker is the preferred tool for user and technical documentation in
many large corporations: Sun, Hewlett-Packard, Ericsson.  With tools like
mif2go and Webworks Publisher, you can single-source print, WinHelp, MS
HTML Help, JavaHelp, XML/SGML, etc. from a base set of documents.  (Acrobat
PDF output is included with FrameMaker.)

Hope this helps.  Phone my mobile if you need more.

You can get training from <http://www.allette.com.au/> or <
http://www.absolutedata.com.au/>.  Absolute Data are in Brisbane while
Allette is in Sydney.


I left out the MOST IMPORTANT thing FrameMaker does.

We have a range of accounting products (FirstAccounts, Accounting,
Accounting Plus, and Premier) which share a common code base.  Different
functions are exposed in different products but variations are also
produced for the different legislative and accounting environments in
different markets, for example, USA, Australia, New Zealand, United
Kingdom, Canada, Malaysia, and Hong Kong.  These products are also
available on both Macintosh and Windows, so there are also platform

All manuals for all products released in all markets on both platforms are
contained in a SINGLE FrameMaker fileset.  We use FrameMaker's conditional
tags to expose the appropriate content (text and screen shots) for the
relevant product and market, hiding all the rest.  We also use conditions
to handle spelling and idiom variations, for example, "color" in USA and
Canada versus "colour" in Australia and UK, or "one through four" in USA
versus "one to four" in Canada, UK, and Australia.

I mentioned FrameMaker's variables in my last message.  We use these for
product names, subsidiary company names and contact details which vary from
country to country, for example, MYOB Premier (Mac and Win) in Australia is
equivalent to MYOB Accounting Plus (Win) and MYOB AccountEdge (Mac) in
Canada and USA.

For each combination of market, product, platform we have a master
conditions file and a master variables file which we just import into the
fileset to tailor for the particular deliverable.

Just try and do that with Word!  If you are selling product variations into
different markets or intend to in the future, FrameMaker is the ONLY

With some of our other product lines, we single source online help and
print versions from a single FrameMaker fileset using mif2go (in the
future, possibly Webworks Publisher).  Of course, you can also do this with
Word and Robohelp, but you don't have the conditional text capability with
Word and Robohelp.


[Windows 2000, FrameMaker 6.0p405, FrameScript 1.27C01, Enhance 2.03,
Acrobat 4.05.2, mif2go 31r25, IXgen 5.5.h]


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Hedley Finger
Technical Communications/Technical communicator and FrameMaker mentor
MYOB Australia <http://www.myob.com.au/>
P.O. box 371   Blackburn VIC 3130   Australia
Tel. +61 3 9894 0945
Mob. +61 412 461 558

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