26 November 2015

Word to FrameMaker?

Under the heading Word to FrameMaker? It's a no-brainer now.Stefan Gentz* has posted some interesting comments on Adobe FrameMaker 2015 that will be of interest to technical writers and their translators working on major technical writing projects.
(This means, incidentally, that this topic is peripheral to my interest in technical journalism and translators thereof.)

First, a quote that neatly encapsulated some of Microsoft Word's enduring weaknesses (my bold):
One big topic that came up again and again was the handling of big and bigger documentations. Word has no book functionality and the master document concept is, well, a concept only. This is why most Word authors prefer to keep all content in one document – resulting in all the problems that come with this: Terrible performance, one big content silo, no re-use of chapters / topics, problems in the translation process, difficult handling, tons of self-written macros to fix tons of problems. Other pain points for many MS Word tech writers are unreliable styles and unpredictable formatting behavior. Styles change "magically" in the whole document. Paragraphs live their "own live" and get or keep unwanted overrides. Lists get corrupted, count wrong, get messed up easily.
Gentz goes on to describe if not hype some of FrameMaker's benefits, including:
FrameMaker, on the other hand, comes with a clever book concept that allows you to break down your documentation in smaller, easy to re-use chapters, topics or simple content chunks. Templates, styles, numberings and tables are stable and behave exactly as you have defined them. You can create stable cross-references between chapters, add automated lists like table of contents, index entries, figures, tables etc., can use regular expressions for complex find and replace and output the whole book to smart PDFs with bookmarks and active links and even embed U3D graphics and videos. You can publish to modern and great looking Responsive HTML5 online Help (of course also Retina enabled) with easy to customize layout and it's easy as 1-2-3. You can even publish to native iOS and Android Apps, Amazon kindle and ePub and with the latest release to the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite.
On translation issues, he writes:
And translation? It's a no-brainer, too. All professional CAT tools / Translation Management Systems like Across, SDL Trados Studio, Kilgray memoQ, STAR Transit, Wordfast, memsource and XTM provide robust and mature filters for FrameMaker documents. And Language Service Provider around the world love FrameMaker not only because of the excellent CAT tool support but also because post-translation DTP is much faster and more easy than for Word Documents. If you ever had to deal with big, messy Word Documents in a translation process you know what I'm talking about. And of course, FrameMaker 2015 comes with full support for all western languages, CJKV, Right-to-Left languages like Arabic, Farsi and Hebrew (including a one-click layout-flip!), support for Thai and many other languages.
On converting Word documents:
... FrameMaker 2015 comes with a totally revamped Microsoft Word import filter that makes the transition easier than ever before: Just create a template in the look and feel you want, and then just import the Word document. A new dialog helps you to map word styles to FrameMaker styles individually, keep or throw away manual formatting overrides.
Adobe has created a small 2-minute video that shows this process in detail: here.
* GALA Ambassador, tekom Conference Board member, Consultant, trainer & speaker with focus on TechComm & Globalization.

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