Boone Severson had some questions for Art:
> > Hello Art,
> >
> >  Can you clarify "reliable"? Prone to corruption, crashing, 
> etc? After years of using FrameMaker's internal drawing tool, 
> we're going to adopt an external diagramming tool. To keep 
> the usability the same, we were going to use OLE.

I've used OLE successfully in docs that only contain one or two Visio
drawings. I'd never use it in docs that contain many. 

> >  I've seen the file size grow quite a bit (172k .fm7 file + 
> 200k Visio file turns into a 4.4 MB .fm7 file using OLE), but 
> it's still the most user friendly. If someone needs to update 
> a drawing, they double-click and do it right there.

So that saves you Alt-Tabbing to your file manager, drilling down a
level to the book's graphics folder, and double-clicking the Visio
source file -- maybe seven seconds? That little bit of convenience isn't
worth the corruption/crash risk, massive file bloat, and slowing of the
system, IMHO.

> >  For those that link in PDF conversions, what kind of 
> filename conventions are being used? Figure 6 isn't always 
> going to be Figure 6, and due to some refactoring that 
> sub-section could be moved to another file in the book.

Filename conventions? My PDFs have the same name as the Visio file from
which they're created, but with a .pdf extension. You do have Visio
files from which you create your linked OLE objects, don't you? (If not
-- if the drawing only exists as an embedded, not linked, object in the
FM file, you're _really_ living on the edge.) 

There are probably only slightly fewer graphics file naming conventions
than tech writers. I'm sure some work better than others, but any one of
them is better than not having your graphics source files at all.

> >  I guess the question is: If OLE has showstopping faults, 
> what's the next best thing for usability?

For Visio drawings, a PDF workflow works wonderfully for me. It's
rock-solid, and the FM file size is unchanged. 

Visio itself is great. If you have it installed when you install
Acrobat, the latter puts its PDFMaker plugin into Visio just like it
does into Word or Excel. So creating a PDF is as easy as clicking a
toolbar button. 

Visio files can contain multiple drawing pages, and PDFMaker will
dutifully produce multi-page PDFs from them. When you import a
multi-page PDF into FM (File > Import > File, By Reference), FM lets you
pick a page (by scrolling or entering a page number) and even shows you
a thumbnail. 

I have some Visio files that contain 20 or 30 call flow diagrams each.
Their page size is 6 x 8.5", so they fit nicely in my FM page layout,
one per page with a figure caption above. The initial import of the PDF
pages went quite quickly, really, and updates are cake. 

The steps in updating a drawing are: (1) open the Visio file; (2) edit
and save it; (3) make PDF. Since they're imported by reference, whenever
the PDF changes, the FM file is updated automatically. 

For any workflow using files imported by reference, you need at least
minimal file management skills and discipline -- everything's not in one
file, so you have to keep track of the pieces and not break the links.
But at its simplest, that just means creating a graphics subdirectory
for each FM book directory and putting all the book's referenced
graphics in it. Not exactly rocket science. :-)


Richard G. Combs
Senior Technical Writer
Polycom, Inc.
richardDOTcombs AT polycomDOTcom
rgcombs AT gmailDOTcom

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