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Managing a huge tech doc with specific needs

New Here ,
Nov 13, 2018

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Thanks in advance to the great denizens of Adobe's Blogs for the assist here.

My company is managing a large technical document -- hundreds, possibly thousands of pages -- that's scrutinized by government regulators.

We've run this document in MS Word in the past, breaking the work into multiple files. We have to Track Changes.

It is a nightmare.

We're exploring FrameMaker as an alternative, as we want to produce a document more easily (and swiftly) to PDF.

However, in my digesting of what FrameMaker can do, it sounds like the way Word tracks changes isn't really present in FrameMaker.

Neither is there capability to have multiple people working on the same document at once without somehow breaking it apart, just as we (hate to) do with Word. NOTE: We cannot use cloud computing or a separate CMS for this; the program's got to meet these requirements on its on.

Is this a correct reading of FrameMaker's capabilities?

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Managing a huge tech doc with specific needs

New Here ,
Nov 13, 2018

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Thanks in advance to the great denizens of Adobe's Blogs for the assist here.

My company is managing a large technical document -- hundreds, possibly thousands of pages -- that's scrutinized by government regulators.

We've run this document in MS Word in the past, breaking the work into multiple files. We have to Track Changes.

It is a nightmare.

We're exploring FrameMaker as an alternative, as we want to produce a document more easily (and swiftly) to PDF.

However, in my digesting of what FrameMaker can do, it sounds like the way Word tracks changes isn't really present in FrameMaker.

Neither is there capability to have multiple people working on the same document at once without somehow breaking it apart, just as we (hate to) do with Word. NOTE: We cannot use cloud computing or a separate CMS for this; the program's got to meet these requirements on its on.

Is this a correct reading of FrameMaker's capabilities?

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Nov 13, 2018 0
Adobe Community Professional ,
Nov 13, 2018

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Yes, FM has a Track Changes feature - never used it myself, so I can't tell you much about it.

Without some source control system or CMS, you'll never be able to have multiple authors working on the same content at the same time.

FM can work with many source control programs to check in and out files - there's a whole Source Control forum about this.

Depending on the amount of content reuse, going to a Structured FM environment may make more sense - you're still going to have to bust up the content into smaller pieces in any case. But FM makes assembling long docs easy with the concept of the book file container.

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New Here ,
Nov 13, 2018

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I'll dive into that Source Control forum to see if that can give me a more concrete answer.

We have OneDrive that we do use to a degree, but never at the level of trying to use a CMS approach on one huge document. We've only used it with small spreadsheets and Word docs.

We're also experimenting with Structured FM to see if we can use it, but the learning curve feels intense. And that's from someone who is a Word whiz who programs templates, macros, etc.

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Advisor ,
Nov 13, 2018

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fwiw, I used to work with a large regulatory document: mandatory requirement for at least four updates a year, with the delta between updates highlighted. Thanks to FM, this was easy! and we even had specific compliments from the government agency on the quality of our docs compared to similar submissions from other companies.

  • Every chapter was a separate .fm file, and (though the question never arose) I'm guessing file-system locks would have made it feasible to have different authors working on different topics at the same time.
  • The FM 'book' mechanism is rock-solid, not like the unreliable approximation in other environments. (classic comment from a Microsoft MVP: "a 'master document' has only two states – corrupt, or about to be corrupt")
  • Automatic track changes is too often messy: we explicitly applied conditions such as new_r5d3 or deleted_r5d4, which made it easy enough to produce a change-log for each update. (also, though again we never had to test it, we could have reprinted older releases just by changing the condition settings: nothing was ever deleted from the one set of source files)
  • If I'd had access to structured FM at the time I might have explored it for procedures – but from the nature of the content, which had to provide answers to a lengthy set of questions, there was so little re-use that a couple of text insets did the trick. Structure (DITA) as an aid to writing more consistently is a different question.

So – go for FM! you'll love it once you get used to it ;-}

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