Hi, Laurie.

> since we're the ones who will be converting the old docs/maintaining etc.

It sounds like you have existing content in FrameMaker format, which is not a 
deal breaker but it does take time to put such content into InDesign files. 

If you want to talk your client out of using InDesign, you should probably 
point to the effort needed to convert the existing content and InDesign's 
learning curve. Template design is non-trivial. If you have an existing 
FrameMaker template, it could save a lot of time to just continue using it.

I am a technical writer and used FrameMaker for about ten years before my 
current position, where I use InDesign CS3. Based on my experience with both 
tools and what I've read about InDesign CS4, I agree with Peter and Art's 

I had my choice of tools when I started this job. I decided to buy Adobe 
Creative Suite Design Standard which comes with InDesign CS3because the 
Marketing and Design departments were using it and we only need to produce 
PDFs. Creative Suite comes with Illustrator, Photoshop, and Acrobat 
Professional, which I knew would be useful because we make hardware as well as 
software. There was no requirement to develop a help system.

My experience with InDesign has been positive, but I'd caution anyone against 
it if producing written content is your primary objective. I've found InDesign 
to be a very powerful page layout tool with graphics capabilities that are far 
superior to those of FrameMaker. I can make InDesign do anything I need it to 
do, but it is not a text production tool in the way that FrameMaker is. 
InDesign output tends to be beautiful compared to FrameMaker, but it somehow 
seems to take longer write because I'm always fussing with InDesign's features. 
FrameMaker is more of a text editor with a few very useful features, such as 
conditional text. I was never fully satisfied with FrameMaker's graphics 
output, but it is so reliable and easy to use by comparison to InDesign that 
sometimes I miss it.

I've recently found a need to provide a web-based front end for a large set of 
documents. Producing it would be easy in FrameMaker because of its integration 
with WebWorks or RoboHelp. I could make InDesign do it via XML or its limited 
web output features, but it hardly seems worth the effort.

Another serious limitation with InDesign is that PDF file sizes tend to be huge 
for large books (30 MB is not uncommon). That's fine if you're sending them to 
a printer, but not for users who just want to get at some information. It takes 
a while to learn techniques for reducing the resolution of some images.

You asked specifically about conditions, variables, and text insets, which 
FrameMaker handles very well. You can supposedly do the first two with InDesign 
CS4. If text insets are a deal breaker, then stick with FrameMaker.

You also mentioned wanting an open source tool. As Peter said, there's no open 
source replacement for FrameMaker with all of its features. However, I think 
that OpenOffice Writer is remarkably good and has many advanced features. It 
does not have text inset features, but it does have conditional text and 
variables, but not on par with FrameMaker. For basic PDF publishing of long 
technical documents, OpenOffice Writer is far superior to Word and comparable 
with FrameMaker.

If your client ends up using InDesign, have fun. It will be an opportunity to 
learn a useful tool.



Message: 9
Date: Tue, 12 May 2009 12:16:30 -0400
From: "Laurie Little" <llit...@words-tw.com>
Subject: Frame vs Indesign vs alternatives??
To: "Framers list \(E-mail\)" <framers at lists.frameusers.com>
Message-ID: <11B0BDA4EDB8469983C5B258D7C9CED3 at wordstw.com>

"Hello from beautiful sunny Toronto!I need to recommend a tool for a client who 
works on Mac, and it's between FM (via Bootcamp/Parallels/whatever) and 
Indesign for Mac (major functional
requirements are conditions/variables/text insets). We're pushing for Frame, 
since we're the ones who will be converting the old docs/maintaining etc., but 
the client (thinks he) will be doing some minor
maintenance and therefore prefers a Mac (and preferably an open-source)
solution if one can be found, so my boss wants to make sure we have all info to 
present.Since Indesign CS4 *can* do conditional text/xrefs/variables, I need to
assemble a good argument for not using it? :-D
>From what I've read in various forums (fora?) and blogs etc., Frame is still
the preferred tool for user docs, regardless of platform.Just to round out our 
proposal though, I need to include/eliminate any other
alternatives. The ones I have looked at don't seem to do conditional text
(which would be critical to this project). Does anyone know of another
(Mac/open source) tool that handles conditional text, other than Frame and
Indesign?Thanks for any advice/warnings/tips/rants/etc,

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