What Do Adobe and Fox Have In Common?

Posted on March 9, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |

As I stated a couple of articles ago, things have been very hectic for me. So, while this article is late, I think it's still relevant since it directly affects my career choice.

We all know by now that Adobe is buying Macromedia. This can't be bad for Adobe who seriously needs something better than GoLive. Web site development in GoLive is not what I consider best-in-class; but its goofy HTML code makes me want to wretch. Adobe picking up Dreamweaver and Flash is good for them, but I think it's bad for us.

I can see how the Adobe / Macromedia merger is going to be excellent in the short term for their shareholders. Most mergers are. It's like thinking how a marriage between two Mafia families will bring peace to the streets. However, after a while, the neighborhood suffers as the "Family" no longer struggles with each other and they take it out on civilians. Speaking as an end-user, I'm more than a little nervous about the future of content creation software. Adobe is about to seriously limit the options writers have when it comes to having the right tool for the job.

Yes, Adobe has PageMaker, FrameMaker, and InDesign. Let's bitch about those for a minute. PageMaker and InDesign are designed for one purpose: page layout. This is a significant point. Page layout has nothing to do with writing. Most of the time, real writers use word processors. They send their copy to the layout people. So forget about those tools for content creation. When Adobe acquired Frame, Inc. in 1995, they justified the $500 million purchase because FrameMaker was a special tool for long technical documents. FrameMaker's power is that it can handle the creation of large documents with complex cross references, indices, tables, and even SGML or XML structure. Yet there is not a peep from Adobe on what they want to do with this tool. FrameMaker users on the Framers mailing list gripe every so often because of the lack of attention to the tool. Many feel that Adobe spent too much and I would agree since Adobe doesn't aggressively market FrameMaker, they have only had three releases since 1995 (if you count version 5, which was basically a rebranded release of Frame's version 5; I also don't count Adobe's pathetic point releases), and now FrameMaker sits idly as Adobe makes major revisions to InDesign, PhotoShop, Illustrator, and Acrobat. Adobe didn't even bother to make the Macintosh version of FrameMaker OS X compliant (a.k.a. carbonized). Writers who love FrameMaker are basically stuck with ten-year-old software from Adobe.

While FrameMaker is a powerful that is still relevant today, Adobe has decided there is no significant market for it. FrameMaker is to Adobe what any non-Simpsons television show is to Fox. I don't think this would be as much of an issue if there were competing products on the market. But there is not.

Corel Ventura is the closest and it's buggy and can't produce the output most technical writers need. For example, with WebWorks Publisher or Mif2Go and FrameMaker together, you can produce print, PDF files, Windows help systems, HTML help systems, complete Web sites, and sophisticated XML output. Ventura is only good for PDF and print, and XML if you have a lot of patience and/or strong medication. By the way, Corel doesn't know how to develop nor market Ventura either.

There is no other choice out there. You can't count Word since it's as much fun the stomach flu when it comes to making long, complex documents and you can't take Immodium to make it better.

Making Matters Worse

Last year, Macromedia finished their purchase of eHelp, the company that created and sold RoboHelp. For the sake of clarity, I've never been a big RoboHelp fan, but it did the job and was an industry standard when it came to making help systems. It started out as a macro for Microsoft Word and grew from there. Macromedia put RoboHelp in sunset mode early this year and now Adobe owns it. So now Adobe is in control of the two major technical writing tools on the market. What's wrong with that picture? Nothing if you want to use the current version of RoboHelp for the next ten years or pay $200 for a point release of FrameMaker with a couple of new, minor features.

Adobe's contribution to the graphics community cannot be taken away. PhotoShop is the standard for photographers and graphic designers. InDesign is making Quark sweat bullets as they try to compete. However, Adobe has shown they cannot be all things to all people. Their treatment of FrameMaker is evidence.

I've seen a lot of hype from the new startup, Madcap Software. They are promising a RoboHelp-like, XML-based, genuine writer's tool. I signed up to be a beta tester, but I haven't heard from them yet. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they do something. Right now, the best I can hope for is that somebody with enough cash can buy RoboHelp and FrameMaker from Adobe and actually develop and market them properly. I'm tired of Microsoft Word and even growing more tired of relying on ten-year-old software for my work.

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