Do you recommend Word or FrameMaker?
Passions run surprisingly high on this question, so I choose my words carefully. I’ll start by admitting that I have a deep mistrust of Microsoft Word. It is born of the countless hours I have spent recovering corrupted Word documents. That said, Word has its place: it is the standard, and you need a good reason not to use it. I use both every day, but for different types of projects.
The strengths and weaknesses of Word and FrameMaker are explained in the Writing Tools topic in the style guide. In summary, when it comes to an everyday writing tool, Word is the only practical choice. If you want to dash off a quick report, Word is great. There are, however, situations in which Adobe FrameMaker offers significant practical and productivity advantages over Word.
The situations in which I strongly recommend using Adobe FrameMaker instead of Microsoft Word are (a) large, multi-document books, such as regulations, user guides, and reference manuals, and (b) long-life documents that will be subjected to repeated review cycles. The reason for (a) is that Word just doesn’t have the features you need to manage a large document (interdocument cross-references and template management, in particular). And for (b), Word documents are too easily corrupted (when pasting formatted text and editing headers and footers, for example).
Word’s treatment of outline headings and list styles is particulary poor: I have lost count of the documents I have had to recover for clients because their heading or list styles had gone berserk. I have managed large manuals containing thousands of pages for many years for numerous clients, and in all that time, I have never had to deal with a corrupted FrameMaker file or book. It is astonishingly stable. That alone more than compensates for the higher price tag.
Finally, FrameMaker is the tool of choice for professional writers because it gives you complete control over everything on the page: compared with fighting the automated “features” that some Microsoft programmer thinks will make your life easier.
October 8, 2015 / Tim McAuley / 0