FrameMaker, RoboHelp or Adobe Technical Communication Suite – Choosing the Right Tool for Technical Communication
I am seeing a number of debates happening across support forums and mailing lists about which authoring tool (FrameMaker or RoboHelp) is better suited for a specific purpose. Both RoboHelp and FrameMaker are really powerful authoring tools for technical communication. FrameMaker provides a print WYSIWYG authoring environment and is the best Print and PDF publishing tool. RoboHelp provides an HTML WYSIWYG authoring environment and is the best publishing tool for knowledge bases and online help with support for largest number of output formats. RoboHelp supports Dynamic HTML effects while auto-numbering and cross-references are major strengths of FrameMaker.
Both FrameMaker and RoboHelp provide
- strong support for single sourcing including variables, conditional tags and snippets (text insets in FrameMaker),
- support for multiple TOCs, indexes, glossaries,
- support for tables, images, Captivate demos, Flash, 3D PDFs,
- template based authoring,
- support for long documents (FrameMaker books often exceed 1,000 pages) and large projects (RoboHelp projects often exceed 1500 topics) and so on.
With Adobe Technical Communication Suite, you don’t need to choose between RoboHelp and FrameMaker. You get both of them (with Captivate and Acrobat 3D) at an attractive price. Adobe Technical Communication Suite provides a complete solution for technical communication. Adobe Technical Communication Suite is probably the right product for you, if any of the following holds true –
- PDF/print is an important output format for you (need FrameMaker and Acrobat), or
- You send documentation for review to subject matter experts, customers and vendors (need Acrobat 3D for PDF based review and commenting workflow along with FrameMaker or RoboHelp), or
- You are publishing or planning to publish for multiple channels – PDF or print and online help (need FrameMaker, Acrobat and RoboHelp).
- You are using Structured FrameMaker for authoring XML documents and want a more flexible solution than XSL transforms and reduce the cost to customize and manage XSL transforms for every minor change needed in the Online Help output (need FrameMaker and RoboHelp), or
- You are authoring in DITA and need a better publishing tool than DITA open toolkit (need FrameMaker, Acrobat and RoboHelp), or
- You want to improve the effectiveness of your technical communication by using Flash movies or Adobe Captivate demos to illustrate the workflows (need Captivate along with RoboHelp or FrameMaker), or
- You are part of an industry where 3D visualization can substantially improve effectiveness of technical communication, for example, manufacturing – engineering, automobiles, construction, aerospace, real estate and so on (need Acrobat 3D with RoboHelp or FrameMaker), or
- You are currently using or will use two or more products from the Suite (FrameMaker, RoboHelp, Captivate and Acrobat 3D).
I certainly believe that above scenarios hold true for most of the technical communicators. In a later post, I will discuss further on this topic.