Most technical communicators I know have a very solid understanding of Framemaker and credit it as being the most useful tool when it comes to creating documentation.
The first piece of publishing software I ever used was in the newsroom world – QuarkExpress. As a reporter, we would craft our stories in Quark Copy and the layout and copyediting team would design and edit in QuarkExpress. I had some experience with the layout aspect of QuarkExpress in university so when I started as a technical writer, I was already comfortable with most of the fundamentals of desktop publishing programs.
I started using InDesign a couple of years ago and while the fonts were a bit wonky, I found the user interface to be worthwhile, if not overall friendly. It must have been what I had gotten used to, because I have to say there was a bit of a curve when I hit Framemaker. Luckily, I started on the program working in a pre-defined template. I got used to the way Frame worked and found myself more comfortable with it’s quirks.
And now, I just recently started on another project that uses InDesign, which means I’m bouncing back and forth between the two.
I’m starting to realise, just like rationale behind your favourite foods, that I like both tools fairly equally but for different reasons.
InDesign is a very visual program. It involves a lot of drag and drop, movable parts, multiple views that fit nicely with graphic heavy manuals. You can modify quite easily where a picture fits on the page and where the text can wrap around it. Very fluid. Great for designers and technical communications based more on pamphlet style delivery.
Frame is a like an advanced word processor. It builds a book with organized structure and style settings, allowing you the flexibility show or hide certain pieces of content based on the context. For example, certain pages for North America vs certain pages for Europe. It allows a developer to be very specific about the styles that are set for text and has a very straightforward, simple text flow – from page to page.
I like knowing that these two pieces of software have specific purposes. In knowing that, I feel I could make a strong suggestion to someone, based on their content desires, which tool to select. And just like that toolbox in your garage, it’s great to have the knowledge of both programs so you can pull from them, regardless of the content creator’s decision.
So what do you think? Do you use one, both and if so which ones do you prefer?