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RE: Rumour: FM really is dead

As a person in the business of assisting companies in translation of
software and documentation (usually Frame books) into other languages, and
development of tools for that purpose, I have some thoughts from a
globalization perspective.

(1) If FM cannot be Unicode-enabled, it is going to lose out to other
documentation platforms. I suspect that the cost of Unicode-enablement is
daunting, due to the large amount of really old code beneath the covers. As
a programmer, I cringe to look at entire applications I wrote 10-15 years
ago and contemplate ungrading them to a modern enviroment.  Putting a new
style engine in an old car is not trivial.

(2) Printed Documentation and reference manuals are on the way out. I have
behind me, in my current onsite office, about 20 thick reference books I
brought (Java, SQL, HTML, C++, VB, etc.), and I haven't opened one of them
in the past month. Not because I know everything in them, but because I can
find answers quicker via online help, MSDN search, or Google.  In a printed
document, only the index (and "see xx on page yy") provide a browsing means
--- there is no "search".

(3) Documentation is heading towards richer content (graphics, audio,
video), more portability, more rapid update (content management), and even
interactivity (as in workflow processes). DWEmory's comments about XML
migration are much to the point.  In fact, the entire world of documentation
has been undergoing a revolution while Adobe has clung to waning paradigms.

So, what FM does well, it does probably better than any other tool.  But
what it doesn't do may be more important as people and enterprises look to
the items in (3).  A hundred years ago the automobile changed delivery
systems for people and goods.  Today the internet and cellular technology
are changing the information-delivery systems.

Listen, I go back aways, to writing software via punched cards for IBM in
the 70s.  And it was hard to retire my Post slide-rule (nostalgically
speaking) and embrace an HP35 calculator back then.  Now we may be faced
with the retirement of FrameMaker --- but I'll wager that in a few years our
publishing skills will be enriched with superior tools that come from other
sources and different ways of thinking.

Maybe now is the time to, rather than lament, let emerging competitors know
of our publishing "wish lists". Too often we've seen us real-life users take
a back seat to the engineers, in the design of the better tools we crave.
Even Adobe might be listening.

Ron Pierce


-----Original Message-----
From: Fred Ma [mailto:fma@doe.carleton.ca]
Sent: Thursday, December 04, 2003 6:04 PM
To: framers@omsys.com
Subject: Rumour: FM really is dead

The baffling thing is that Adobe doesn't consider FM
worthwhile.  How can that be?  We live in a capitalist
environment.  There is no product (that I know of, not
that I'm any final authority) that even begins to
rival FM for technical composition.  (I distinguish
composition from document preparation; for the latter,
the assumption is that the content and approximate
format has been predetermined).  How can an application
for which there are no substitutes (not even remotely)
be not worthwhile?  Surely, the market for the application
is not small.  Alas, I feel the conversation drifting
in the same direction that it has drifted before.  It is
because Word has become so cheap that the bean counters
(no respect intended, it is a critical role) have forced
the propeller heads to use Word.  Maybe, despite its
awesome functionality, elegance, and stability, the
cost of FM is more than the market can bear.  This doesn't
necessarily mean that Adobe is pocketing too much (it
obviously feels that it can't get enough for FM without
giving up market share).  It may simply be that continual
development of such a (much better) tool requires too
much resources.

The argument put forth in the past was that FM's greater
expense more than pays for itself before too long.  That
may (or may not) be true.  It doesn't matter, so long as
the bean counters don't see that.  The market has spoken,
and rightly or wrongly, it will lumber down the path it
has chosen (to the sadness of FM users everywhere).

Former responses to this topic include the testimony that
FM training courses are alive and well.  If so, that is a
welcome relief, since it makes it less likely that FM will
truly be dropped.  Whether that testimony is still accurate
today, only the instructors can say.  And who knows how
much of any effect that has on the decision of dropping FM.
Who can say what goes on in the minds of the visionaries at


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