Angela Akridge wrote:

> I'm a contractor for a very small startup that has a limited budget.
> been tasked to create their online help. They currently have manuals
in MS
> Word, though no styles/tags are being used yet.
> They have no permanent writer, and they can't afford one at this time.
> There's a chance that I'll be supporting their major releases on an
> basis, and they'll update the help for their maintenance releases. Let
> get to the point.
> I must choose between MS Word or Frame as the source. I don't know
which to
> choose, given the circumstances!

I have to go against my fellow list-members (and my own preferences) on
this one. As John noted, they apparently don't _really_ know how to use
Word -- and thus will likely mess things up when they do the "minor
updates." OTOH, learning FM is non-trivial, and if they don't use styles
in Word, they're likely to mess up FM docs, too, even after some
training. At the least, you'd have to modify the interface to disable ad
hoc formatting controls as much as possible.

And with either FM or Word, you still have to pick a help tool. For FM,
Mif2Go is inexpensive, and once you set it up, they can just "turn the
crank" to regenerate their output. But things will break when they
redefine formats, use overrides left and right, etc. For Word,
Doc-To-Help would be a good choice. But it's been a few years since I've
used it, and I can't say how well it would handle Word files maintained
by the less-than-skilled.

In any case, a small startup with not much money or time -- it's asking
a lot to have them learn either FM or the _right_ way to use Word, plus
the help conversion tool, and the disciplined approach needed to keep it
all working properly update after update.

If the primary deliverable is online help, you may want to consider a
lighter-weight, easier-to-learn help authoring tool like Help & Manual. 

Check out for info on various help authoring tools. 


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

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