Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mad About Word and FrameMaker

Sometimes when I use one of the tools, I wish the other had the same feature. I often wistfully wonder (and sometimes go/get mad)—
  • Why doesn't FrameMaker have this Word feature?
  • Why doesn't Word have this FrameMaker feature?
  • Why can't blah do this task like blah-blah does?
  • Why does blah make this task so much harder than blah-blah does?
  • Would it kill blahtool to simplify some frequently used task by having a shortcut keystroke set instead of the user needing to constantly go to a menu and open one or more series of dialog boxes, select choices, and click OK in each of the boxes?
  • For some other frequently used task that opens a dialog box, can more options be on the same dialog box instead of needing to open secondary dialog boxes?
  • Can blahtool provide lots more task dialog boxes with preview capabilities instead of the current (seemingly) paltry few? (Example implementation: Preview, then click Apply. Click OK when happy with the view.)
I know some uberusers have encyclopedic memorization of shortcuts, and I wish I had that familiarity and proficiency. Unfortunately, I work with the tools just often enough to have memorized a smaller set of shortcut keystrokes. With some commands that are more obscure than others, I often Google for finding how-to's.

Over time that I've used FrameMaker and Word, I've thought, "I wish FrameMaker had [feature] or was as easy to [do something] as Word", and vice versa. Here is my list of features for comments and wishes.

Zoom View
I like FrameMaker's click zoom in and out and menu. It would have been nice If Word's magnifier icon provided dynamic zoom—Have right click zoom in and left click zoom out where the cursor is. Instead, the magnifier click method requires three clicks each time I want to vary zoom percentage.

*** New news (Mar. 5)! I discovered that Word does have dynamic zoom! The lower right part of the window has a slide switch. You can click and drag the slider, or you can click the plus and minus for incremental sizing. Woohoo!

Would really like it if Word had just put in forward and backward options on the initial dialog box instead of requiring a click on More. (On March 11, a commenter mentioned a Word Find feature for simple forward/backward. Turns out Word 2010 has it. Word 2007 still uses the click-More method.) I like Frame's Forward and Backward options being on the Find dialog box. I like Word's search term buffer so I know what I've searched for previously, especially if I want to search for the term(s) again. If only FrameMaker had the same capability!

Bullets and Numbering
I really like FrameMaker's capability. What you set up is what you get. The capability for a start number or letter, and separate capabilities for subsequent number or letter—flawless. Word's seeming unpredictability for numbering, indentation, and reversion has been a source of aggravation for me for years.

Format Painter
One of my favorite Word features. Select some text (usually line or paragraph), and "paint" the format onto something else. Much quicker than using even a Frame paragraph catalog selection, particularly if I have LOTS of styles, which often requires scrolling to the style I want.

Paste Special
Love being able to use Frame's Shift+Ctrl+v. Word had put Paste Special into the ribbon, prominently. However, it's not as convenient as Shift+Ctrl+v. C'mon, Microsoft. Even Open Office has that shortcut key combo.

Copy and Paste for Images
Both Frame and Word irk me when they offset the results of paste. Can either one of them implement a feature so that the to-be-pasted object sticks to the cursor until you actually do a followup click that releases the object where you want it?

Moving Images Around
Word seems much more friendly for setting up grid snap and scooting images (nudge). Press arrow buttons for moving images in increments.

Inserting Symbols
FrameMaker's offering is like looking at a nickel display case. Word provides a buffet, particularly for inserting special characters. I like finding the symbol I want right in the tool.

Formatting Images
I like Word's simplicity for formatting images. The ribbon version is ok, although I liked the older menu version better for simplicity. It seems I need to use more clicks to get to all the commands I want—size/position are now separate from Format Picture.

OTOH, Word's feature for the image to resize while I click spin box values is nice. Percentages and dimensions are chained together (as default options). Images scale up or down as previews. I can stay in the dialog box for previewing the results. It's like try before you buy.

FrameMaker! It's exhausting to constantly open the Graphics > Scaling dialog box and not have the length and width change when I change the scale. And no option to lock the aspect ratio or relative-to-original size option.

Word's feature for arrowheads seem easier for shape, size, and direction than Frame's implementation. The only thing I prefer about Frame's arrowhead feature is the ease of selecting the arrow direction.

Tables—Borders and Shading
I find Word's table Borders and Shading dialog boxes very friendly and intuitive, but FrameMaker's clunky and unfriendly. Word provides previews of results.

Word's way is select a cell and split it. FrameMaker requires adding a column or row, then straddling cells. I think FrameMaker's difficulty with easy splits might have something to do with conditionalizing.

Tables—Column Width
I like Word's dialog box for changing column width and previewing when i click Next Column. I really dislike FrameMaker's lack of any sort of preview. It's exhausting reopening the table-width dialog box several times because I don't guess correctly about the width I wanted and how my selection affects the rest of the table. However, I really like FrameMaker's very easy shortcut for resizing the column width to text width—Esc t w (as in tech writer).

FrameMaker Features Only
Ahhh, if only Word had these features that only FrameMaker has!

Word just plain doesn't do them. Showing active-low signals is easy with FrameMaker as simply another checkbox option. Word is a disaster waiting to happen if drawing a line over text.

Continuation Variable
One great FrameMaker feature is the continuation variable for the table heading title (aka table caption). Inserting the var ensures that a table that spans more than one page displays "continued" (however the FrameMaker user wants to define the text). The reader knows the table is a continuation, not a new table.

FrameMaker makes it easy to do variations of documents for hiding and showing text, figures, tables, table rows. FrameMaker's table rows conditionalizing capability might be the reason why implementing cell splits is difficult. Word doesn't do conditionalizing—oh, sure, maybe in some very primitive way. Comparing the two would be like comparing hopping on one leg to driving a car to get to a driving distance destination.

Importing Formats
FrameMaker's feature has loads of attributes for copying from one document to another. (I use this most often with book files.) Open a file that has attributes and also files for copying attributes to, (Click-shift to select.) In the dialog box, select the "model" file (Import from Document), the attributes to copy (Import and Update), and click Import. Word doesn't do import formats.

Both tools have a secondary means of "importing" formats, but rather primitive, and sometimes it works, and sometimes not. Try copying a style from one file to another if the other file does not have a style with the same name. With both files open, copy an entire paragraph, with paragraph mark, from source to destination. The destination file now includes the source's paragraph style name and style characteristics.

Word features I Wish FrameMaker Had or Had More of
I've noted some of the features in passing, but the following features run throughout in Word that makes me appreciate Word over FrameMaker.

Split/Merge Screen
Word's feature makes it very convenient for copying and pasting items from one part of a document to another. I can copy from the first screen, paste to the second screen, and click the first screen where I left off. Another good use is inserting cross references that originating phrases or icons are all in one spot, which can sit undisturbed in one screen while I hunt for the target that I want to cross reference to.

Spin Boxes
Set field values by clicking arrow buttons for incrementing numbers up and down. Even better, preview the effects. Yes, this is related to images.

Preview Dialog Boxes
View thumbnailish representations of changes before clicking OK, particularly pertinent to images and tables.

What's your madness about FrameMaker and Word?


tom said...

l think you have articulated your thoughts in a very clear and insightful manner . l found this to be very helpful. Thank you sheila leahy

Tracy Jones said...

Thanks, Wanda! Excellent reading for tech writers.

whilldtkwriter said...

Thanks for you comment, Tracy. Wonder if thoughts from my article reach Microsoft or Adobe people who might consider strengthening features I mentioned.

whilldtkwriter said...

Thanks so much for your comment, Sheila. The article came about from years of working with both tools. I jotted down a list of features I've used frequently, some chronically. Jotted arrows up and arrows down for how I felt, then wrote away.

Hypnic Jerk said...

In the latest versions of Word, CTRL + PgUp/PgDown will Find the next matching term in your document, assuming you have an active search (with the left panel shown) at the time.

Anonymous said...

Loved the article, as I have thought the same thing many times. I was puzzled by your remarks about formats, though. Are you talking about styles or formatted documeents? There are ways to manage both in Word.

To save formats, set up a document exactly like you want it, and then save it as a template. The document layout and all styles are saved in whatever location you want. When starting a new document in Word, instead of selecting "Blank document," select "My templates" or "New from Existing." Word uses the selection to create a new blank document.

You can copy styles from a template or another file. In Word 2010 click the Import/Export on the Manage Styles dialog. Click Close File under the Normal.dotm dialog, and then click Open File. Select the Files of Type drop-down, and navigate to the directory holding the Word doc that contains the styles you want to use. Highlight the appropriate file, and then click Open. Use standard Windows selection techniques to choose the styles you want, and then click Copy. This copies the selected styles into the currently open document. (A warning message box opens if styles with the same name are in danger of being overwritten.)

Hopefully I didn't explain to you how to do something you already know how to do....

whilldtkwriter said...

Thanks for that info! That's very handy. With as much area on their active search panel on the left, MS could have put that helpful tip there.

whilldtkwriter said...

Thanks so much for the details about Word formats and templates! And thanks for your complements! I have rarely worked with Word templates the way you described. (I usually found a recent Word document that I liked the formats, then did save-as, and leverage that document's formats.) Will definitely keep your how-to for future reference.

FrameMaker's Import Format feature lets you choose numerous types of formats you can grab from one document. The screenshot at shows the dialog box. The selectable document I pick is usually not "current document". You can do Google Images for FrameMaker Import Formats for more hits to the dialog box and accompanying articles.

JLF said...

Great blog post Wanda. I've never had to use Framemaker but then I'm an ID, not a tech writer, so I'm just happy when they don't make me use PPT. I wish I was better at a lot of the tools I just barely use like Fireworks, SnagIt, Firefly, Visio, Excel, etc. I'm happy when I don't have to code by hand, or when I get to work with a creative, imaginative graphic designer, and not someone who thinks that training is all about them in front of a captive audience. JMHO

whilldtkwriter said...

Thanks for your compliment and comment! Tools proficiency can be difficult to attain and retain, especially if not used frequently. Even some features of tools require lookups if not used recently. As for working with graphic designers, good if and when you have them to work with.

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