FrameMaker vs InDesign
By Barb Binder
You’ve been producing publications in Word for years, but are finding that your files are just getting too complicated and difficult to handle. You are ready to make the move to a professional page layout program and turn to Adobe Systems, the world leader in publications software. Adobe offers two programs specifically for publishing multi-page documentation: FrameMaker 9 and InDesign CS4. Which one do you chose?
The two programs share a number of features. Both allow you to design the page structure with master pages, including the ability to pull live data off the page to display chapter and section headings for quick reference. Both programs support paragraph styles and character styles to make quick work of text formatting. If tables are prevalent in your publications, you’ll be glad to know that both programs offer table styles to quickly and uniformly lay out your tables.
So how do you figure out which one to purchase and use for your work? InDesign excels at shorter, multi-story publications such as brochures, flyers, newsletters and magazines. It is chock-full of high-end typography controls such as automatic ligatures, tracking, kerning, glyphs, hanging punctuation, drop-caps, and more. FrameMaker can produce the multi-story pubs, but it is very cumbersome. FrameMaker excels at laying out long, multi-chapter publications. With the strong and flexible numbering options, you can make quick work of table, figure and section numbering, plus you can add cross-references, equations, conditional text, all sorts of hypertext links, and user variables. InDesign CS4 has added more long document support, but I still reach for FrameMaker to tackle my most complicated technical manuals.
Adobe states that InDesign has “robust” long document support. It does have some of the features mentioned above, but in my opinion, it still falls short for the really long, complex technical documents. If you are a technical writer, working on product documentation, I’d steer you towards FrameMaker. For the rest of you, the wide and varied features of InDesign will probably be a better fit. Or do what I do, buy both and then you can chose the best fit for each individual job!