I have a client looking for a professional to layout a 900-page catalog using FrameMaker. I have never heard of such a thing. I know one would use InDesign but FrameMaker? To give some background, the client's sister company is in Europe and they are sending, to the states, their 900 page catalog that needs to be edited for USA use: some products are not available in the state, converting metrics, and converting European English to American English. So, again, I'm wondering if there was a miscommunication. Can anyone offer insight?
Sounds like it already is in FM - a 900 page doc isn't out of the realm for FM.
900-page catalogs tend to be quite consistent in their formatting, so yes, Fm would be a good choice. Plus, with conditional text, GREP support, and scripting options, it would be much easier to edit the existing project than to reflow into something like InDesign (which, by the way, is another app that I love to use)
By the way, I've had a few clients that use FrameMaker to publish database output of catalog content. These projects were of similar size, but because it was based on database (either MIF or XML) output, they were able to keep the content up-to-date throughout the year, and only spent one week a year on catalog layout and production.
Pretty cool, actually.
I'm an Adobe Certified Instructor on both applications, and I'd say the answer depends on:
You've already heard why one might use FrameMaker, so I'll just note that both applications can handle 900+ page documents (divided into chapters and pulled back together into books), both can handle UK English and US English, and converting from metric measurement to imperial measurement. Both support the three features Matt mentioned above (conditional text, GREP (though Fm is limited to GREP Find/Change while InDesign also supports GREP styles) and scripting).
I think an InDesign advantage is that data merge is built right into InDesign via a panel. The data source typically originates from a spreadsheet or database application, but you can create your own data source file using InDesign or any text editor by creating comma-delimited (.csv) or tab-delimited (.txt) text format files. Data merge is easy to set up, and easy to update.
In addition, InDesign offers a few features that lend themselves to catalog work: nested styles are a huge timesaver but are not part of FrameMaker and InDesign's object styles are much more robust than the equivalent feature in FrameMaker.
Hopefully, this is enough information for you to discuss the merits of one app over the other with the client—if you get the chance, come back and let us know which way they decide to go.