In my experience, it is easier to teach structured FM than unstructured,
because you have a clearly designed output document target for new
writers to use as an example and they can't jury-rig fifteen different
ways to skin the same cat. You must have good tools, EDD and templates,
and must train them on how to access critical features like attributes
and variables.

What is VERY difficult, however, is working in a MIXED structured and
unstructured environment wherein writers have to switch mental gears
depending on the project. They try to use para tag methods to manipulate
structured elements and all their "fixes" go away after the next book
update and reapplication of the EDD.

Where structure shines is in an environment of multiple writers and few
editors where a single look-and-feel must be established and maintained
across a lot of publications. In those cases, demanding that all
submissions contain valid structure and then reapplying the EDD and
removing all manual overrides upon submission goes a long way towards
maintaining specifications and standards. Those writers who cannot or
will not abide by the structure rules can be easily identified and
either retrained or replaced.

Structured FM is an effective truth-teller in a multiple-writer
environment, provided efficient and competent tools and training have
been provided.

Randall C. Reed
Senior Technical Writer
Technical Publications
Total Life Cycle Support
(o) 843-574-3899
(c) 843-906-5522

-----Original Message-----
[mailto:framers-bounces at] On Behalf Of Nancy Allison
Sent: Thursday, December 10, 2009 9:44 AM
To: framers at
Subject: Re: Switching to Structured FrameMaker

I've gotten some wonderful responses both on the list and privately. I'd
begun to think that, since a lot of my clients rely on freelancers who
come and go, structured FrameMaker might be the way to ensure
consistency across documents. 

Then it occurred to me, how hard is it to get writers on board with
structured documentation?

If you hire a new person and they don't know structured FrameMaker, how
much coaching do you have to do to get them started?

And . . . does it really make the usual craziness about autonumbering
and variables in headers, footers, TOCs, LOTs, LOFs, and Indexes . .  GO
AWAY? (I mean, in this situation: new contractor comes on board, gets
new template, at some point copies text from an older doc with
conflicting paragraph tags; variables and cross-references break;
frustration and hair-tearing ensue.)

The elimination of that struggle would be worth a lot.

Thanks one and all.

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