Using FM in a Word World

New Here ,
Oct 03, 2019 Oct 03, 2019

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I'm the lone technical writer for a team of hardware and software engineers. Our team has used Word for our documentation needs, but I convinced my PM to purchase me a FM license to explore its potential usefulness.

I've learned the basics of moving a Word file into FM, and have updated the document I moved to my satisfaction. However, I cannot find any information on how to update a FM file with newer versions of the Word file. This is important because my program has only allowed for one FM license, and my PM doesn't want our engineers to have to learn FM. Rather, they will continue to use Word. When they update a particular document version in Word, I will need to ingest that newer version into the older document version in FM. Is there any easy way to incorporate Word document updates into a FM document? 

Thanks! Travis

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Oct 03, 2019 Oct 03, 2019

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AFAIK, there's no ongoing relationship between a Word doc and a FM doc. FM was designed to replace Word for long-form docs (remember it came out of the book publishing world). What sort of output are you creating? Something RoboHelp is set up to handle is linking Word content to a RH project on an ongoing basis.

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Mentor ,
Oct 04, 2019 Oct 04, 2019

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This topic expands beyond the technical aspects of content portability. It also reaches into concepts of general workflow. I am also a lone technical writer for a team of hardware and software engineers, who work solely in Word. But I never have any need to import Word into FM, because other team members only provide basic information and revisions. As the writer, I virtually never use the information as-is. Rather, as the writer, I research, revise, rewrite, etc. as necessary to make the content better for consumption. The result rarely looks much like the original input.

 

Two things are certain... 1) You will find no simple path between FM and Word, and 2) It is incredibly unlikely that you will get anyone else to purchase and use FM. Regarding #2, a pursuit of that path is most likely to eliminate your chance of using FM. So, perhaps it is time to think about workflow. Why do you need to ingest verbatim content from engineers? If you have a consistent, compelling need, I would suggest thinking about how better to capture the input. Is it just basic data and specifications? If so, some kind of web form or other structured input mechanism might be better, which gets you closer to a consistent, structured input path. If it's just narrative content, then I don't fully understand why you need to import it at all.

 

Russ

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Engaged ,
Oct 05, 2019 Oct 05, 2019

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I am also a lone writer in such a situation.

However, it seems to me that  many techincal writers prefer that the engineers do not touch the source documents (Word etc), either from fear of messing up templates and formats, or because their English needs review as they use "engineer language" and not "tech writing language."

 

I ask them to use track changes and update documents after I edit what they write.

I believe it is possible for them to comment on a PDF and then you can import their changes from PDF to Frame.

However, even though I am a lone writer with Frame, I think that the advantages of using Frame is worth being in this situation, and in the end this is the question that you have to ask yourself. Will Frame make your work more efficient? 

From my point of view

1. I was able to easily make HTML 5 help for them, which was something they wanted and could not get easily with Word as their only tool.

2. I am managing a set of books with conditional text.

 

Apart from that

I find FrameMaker has many advantages over Word as a writing tool

When I had a whole lot of graphics that changed, and since they were linked files, I just changed the graphic files

I had to move chapters and sections around and the numbering just updated so easily  (numering works easily), of course the figure numbering not only chapter and section numbers.

When I update a paragraph or character tab, I can easily implement it book wide.

I use Conditional text

etc etc.

 

In short, there is no way to easily import comments to Frame from Word  (but you should be able to give them your latest version in Word by exporting from PDF).

You have to copy changes by hand.

To see whether this whole work flow is worth it, you need to see how often such imports are required, as opposed to how much you gain by the added efficiency you get working with FrameMaker.

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Community Beginner ,
Oct 10, 2019 Oct 10, 2019

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I've found that Jeff and Russ above are generally correct; there is no simple way to actually do it, but you can simplify your process somewhat. In my case, I had to find a way to wrestle 3500 pages of data spread across 49 Word files. These files had been updated and maintained haphazardly for several years and were as a result were unstable and prone to crash. There was no way I was going to continue to use Word to fix that, not if I wanted to retain what was left of my sanity. This situation is precisely what FM is good for. It took the better part of a year, but I got it under control...for a given value of "control". As a result, my workflow looks a lot like CarolineTa's above. Depending on the data changes, your process may be simple or complex. I would never ask the engineers to learn FM; they don't need it and it would just lead to dogs and cats living together--mass hysteria! (Bill Murray, Ghostbusters) For simplicity's sake, I generally work as follows:

 

1. I ask the engineers to submit their changes in Word with change tracking turned on and a comment noting what changes have been made. (This also helps with QA review in the document release process.)

2. I copy and past the changes into the FM document. (I can usually get away with pasting as plain text. Your mileage may vary, of course.) If the changes are large enough, I import the Word file into FM and reformat as necessary.

3. Instead of embedding image files, I link to them; then I can simply replace the file in an online repository and update FM later.

4. Once the changes are added and formatted, I create a PDF of the FM file and submit for review.

 

The engineers and QA are happy with this arrangement as it captures all changes; I'm happy because I don't have to stay until two o' clock in the morning trying to get Word to print without losing my mind. Hope this helps!

-terry-

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Advisor ,
Oct 21, 2019 Oct 21, 2019

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I first managed to move my developers/product managers from messing with flaky Word source to .pdf review, which they now prefer. Next stage was to move to DITA, because it's handier to be able to edit small components. I'm not using FM for this yet, and hope the imminent arrival of TC on my work laptop may persuade me.

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