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© Ugur Akinci
I’ve been comparing Adobe InDesign with Adobe FrameMaker for the last few weeks, trying to gauge weak and strong points of each powerhouse application.
Here is a summary of my findings:
1) Master Pages
Both applications use master pages. That’s good. In both, you can assign any master page to any body page.
2) Design Possibilities
InDesign wins hand down of course. If you’d like to create complex layouts with connected text boxes running over several pages, then InDesign is your weapon of choice. That’s why all advertisement houses use InDesign and not FrameMaker. Just check out any high-gloss magazine in your favorite bookstore. The chances are it’s designed by InDesign.
3) Digital Publishing
Go with InDesign. ID can publish a “folio” to iPhone and iPad in both orientations (portrait vs. landscape) and you don’t need to learn a single line of DITA or XML to do that. Check out Adobe’s new Digital Publishing Suite. With FrameMaker there is really a steep learning curve that you need to climb before doing the same — and even then I’m not sure if you can publish a double-orientation “folio” of a technical document for iPhone and iPad.
4) Conditional Text
Both applications offer that. You can hide or show the conditional text and images for different versions of the FM or ID document.
5) Book File
Both applications do allow you to pull individual documents into a book file and publish them as a book, or save (FM) or export (ID) as a PDF file.
However, in my experience, it’s much easier to create a TOC for a whole book with FrameMaker. FrameMaker shines when it comes to creating a complex TOC for a long book consisting of many chapters. It allows you to scan through all the documents saved in a book file and then compile a TOC for the whole book.
Both applications however do provide a lot of flexibility in terms of defining how exactly your TOC should look like, which paragraph tags should be selected, in what paragraph style, etc. Actually, InDesign is better than FrameMaker when it comes to formatting the style of TOC entries. With FM you need to visit the Reference Page and the Paragraph Designer and tinker with the code on the back-end; whereas in InDesign you can do all that upfront from a very user-friendly TOC dialog box.
For documents under 100 pages, InDesign indeed looks like a viable alternative to FrameMaker, especially for those applications that need a lot of graphic magic and mobile publishing. However for long documents I’d still trust my good-old FrameMaker, especially if multi8-level TOCs and Index is involved.