SUMMARY: Which would YOU buy?

From: John E. Ivory (
Date: Sat Jul 24 1993 - 05:55:25 CDT

Well, the replies to my post of June 24 have finally trickled off and we've
made a purchase. The original message, in brief, requested net opinion on
what YOU would buy for a document generation system. The votes ended up
as follows...

        Island W/P/D: 0
             Aster*x: 1 (from employee)
           Interleaf: 1
WordPerfect for Suns: 1
          GlobalView: 1 (from employee)
              Avalon: 1
                 Tex: 2
          FrameMaker: 12 WINNER!

Actual tabulation of the votes is subject to a little judgement since
some people had pleasant things to say about 2 or 3 entries. Other
people were quite strong in their likes/dislikes. At the bottom of
this message I've included my original post, followed by highlights
from the various respondants. Some are quite detailed, and worth reading.

Unfortunately, I lost a couple of the responses as a result of a system
problem here, so their votes could not be recorded here. I feel quite
bad about it because one was from an Aster*x rep who indicated that
there was some net terrorism going on against their product by a
competitor via disguised mail addresses making postings. I remember he
made a good case for his product.

I also received two phone calls (to my voice mail system :-) from companies
offering to sell me extensions to Frame. I also received a very nice call
from The Qualix Group with some strong pricing for whatever I buy.

End result: we bought Frame at an excellent price from UNIX Central and
have so far been quite pleased. Thanks to all respondants!

-------------------------------- R A Z O R --------------------------- \ \ \
  Tower Concepts, Inc John E. Ivory \ \
  103 Sylvan Way ... \ \
  New Hartford, NY 13413 (315) 724-3540 \
-------------------------- An Issue Tracking System -----------------------\
                    With Integrated Configuration Management


> We want to migrate all of our documentation efforts off of PC's (mostly
> Wordperfect for Windows) and onto the Suns. Towards that, we're
> evaluating which package to purchase and install. We've had light
> experience to date with a variety of systems, and want to supplement
> our knowledge with word from the net.
> We've pretty much narrowed the choice down to Frame or Asterix, but have
> still not closed the debate on other packages.
> So... which would YOU buy?
> Just so you know where we're coming from...
> Needs...
> - To be used primarily for formal documentation (<250 pages typically)
> - Need to be able to generate TOC's, appendices, indexes, etc
> - Integrated graphics package (sorely missing from PC's WordPerfect)
> - Ability to import other formats, particularly WordPerfect for Windows docs
> and Sun's rasterfiles.
> - To be run on Sun's by engineers and their managers.
> - Only need 5 or so seats initially
> Observations and impressions to date...
> - Interleaf: although we are very familiar with it and even prefer it, is
> very disk and dollar expensive.
> - WordPerfect for Suns: bad taste remains from PC experiences, and net
> traffic suggests we should swing clear.
> - Island: swell for minor stuff, but not sophisticated enough for our needs.
> - Aster*x: From our exposure, a really nice package, but we've been
> cautioned that it's a tad buggy, and we have no measure of how well it
> will hold up under stress.
> - Frame: To date, it appears the winner, and favored child of net user's.


(Towards brevity, I left out the debate that ensued between and

>From Thu Jun 24 10:19:15 1993
> I have been using Frame on a Sun for some time now. So I can lend a
> little personal experience.
> TOCs are easy. It appears that indexes are too, but I have no
> personal experience. Chapters (and therefore probably appendices)
> must be separate documents if you want any type of fancy numbering
> system. Although Frame allows you to associate documents to form a
> "book", I find this annoying.
> There is a simple object-oriented drawing tool that meets many of my
> needs. I reminds me a lot of MacDraw, if you are familiar with that.
> WordPerfect imports "relatively" well, but requires the use of the
> Frame filter pack. You will loose any "figures" in your WordPerfect
> file. This includes formulas. Sun raster files are a snap, and render
> pretty well. I do this a lot.
> Frame is available in a Motif and an OpenLook version. We use the
> Motif version here. I believe the OpenLook version make use of NeWS,
> so if you are using Xterminals, be warned!
> In my opinion, the biggest hole in Frame is the lack of a reference
> manager. I have been told there are PD or cheap reference managers
> available, but I have no personal experience.
> Also, its learning curve is a little ugly. The concept of frames and
> tags will be foreign to your WordPerfect users. However, coming from
> a MS Word environment, I had little trouble, and prefer it to
> WordPerfect.

>From Thu Jun 24 11:27:54 1993
> We are running WordPerfect 5.1 for UNIX under SunOS 4.1.2. It
> has been working fine for us. The GUI mode is a bit slow - often
> the display can't keep up with my typing. This is especially
> irritating when backspacing out a bunch of text, since the cursor
> gets behind and you can't tell when to let up the backspace key.
> The character-based mode doesn't have any trouble keeping up with
> my typing. Also, I like it better than the GUI mode since the
> GUI mode is like WP for Windows, while the character mode is like
> WP for DOS. I'm more used to WP for DOS.
> I don't know if WordPerfect has their Solaris version done yet.
> I'd suggest you get at least one copy of WordPerfect 5.1 for UNIX
> and try it out. You already have in-house WordPerfect expertise,
> and it's a heck of a lot cheaper than FrameMaker.
> By the way, we also use FrameMaker. Normally we develop
> documents in WordPerfect, save them as ISO Latin-1 text files,
> and then import them into FrameMaker for formatting.

>From Thu Jun 24 14:25:00 1993
> Have you considered TeX? For a well defined house style it is very
> good. The initial learning required would be higher, the long run
> productivity would be higher, the cost is 0.

>From Thu Jun 24 15:59:55 1993
> TeX.
[ ...and commenting about WordPerfect for Suns... ]
> They worked very hard to make printing from it so very nearly impossible.

>From Thu Jun 24 15:59:51 1993
> FWIW, the technical documentation preparers at Carnegie-Mellon all
> switched to FrameMaker some time ago. They seem to be happy with it
> ... apparently FM is very well suited for manuals, big technical
> documents, etc. It may be overkill for making little documents.

>From Fri Jun 25 11:01:18 1993
[ ...comparing Frame vs Asterix... ]
> Both are in use here. People reject Asterix as being full of too many
> compromises. I wind up using Frame for historical reasons, although it
> is slow and clumsy.
> Please consider Interleaf, which has a far superior model and performs
> much better.

>From Fri Jun 25 12:01:15 1993
> Framemaker. No question.

>From Fri Jun 25 14:31:21 1993
> have you looked at GlobalView for X?
> will do everything you want (+/-250 pages, TOC, indexes, import/export
> filters) and will have your users working much faster than they could
> on Frame. many of our large customers use GlobalView to create
> manuals, FDA submissions, and highly complex technical specifications.
> call 1-800-626-6775 x 127 for a white paper on the product or
> call/write me for more information.
> yes, i work for the company. no, i'm not a salesman.

>From toma@TC.Cornell.EDU Fri Jun 25 21:38:54 1993
> Go with Frame, but check out Avalon.

>From Fri Jun 25 21:39:00 1993
> Asterix has a lot going for it, but it also has too many bugs for my
> tastes. I'd advise you go for Frame....

>From jswan@Panix.Com Sun Jun 27 22:14:33 1993
> We've been through the same wringer. Although the needs of a trading
> floor ar very different much of the specs are the same. We use WP 5.1
> for Suns for lower end users with some problems but it is feature rich
> and VERY WYSIWYG. We had some bad reviews after installing Asterix
> (though it remains a favorite with other departments). The biggest
> complaints about Asterix are feature lackings. For more demanding use
> and larger docs Frame remains the choice. I can tell you that I know
> of two major firms in this industry using 500+ of either so there does
> not seem to be a consensus. Another thought is that while Frame is
> usually retty pricey there seems to be a big discount push lately.
> Maybe WP5.2 will be manna.

>From Tue Jun 29 04:46:19 1993
> Frame, by a long shot

>From Tue Jun 29 09:30:26 1993
> I've only used FrameMaker, but find it's more than adequate
> for all my needs (mostly technical documentation).

>From Wed Jun 30 17:01:40 1993
> Yeah, stick to Frame.
> I did my Ph.D. thesis with it, including scanned images and all. Went
> very smooth. Around here we write most papers with it and use it to
> produce drawings, slides and such. Recommended.

>From Thu Jul 1 16:31:45 1993
> My answer when posed with the same question last year was FrameMaker.
> For documentation issues, we find FrameMaker more than up to snuff. It
> won't do "everything" (drawing tools are not at the Corel Draw level),
> but it is very feature rich, stable, and productive tool.
> My company is a Sun Education Strategic Alliance (in other words a
> SunEd Center). We are also an Authorized Frame Training Center on Suns
> and an Island Graphics ATC. I know from first hand experience that Sun
> Education uses FrameMaker to develop almost all of the courseware we
> use for Sun. I have used FrameMaker to develop courses in WordPerfect
> for X as well.
> I teach FrameMaker 3.1, and Island Graphics. I can say without
> hesitation that FrameMaker is a superior product and more intuitively
> learned. As for Aster*x, I have heard good things and not so good
> things. AT&T uses Aster*x for memos and such, but they have not been
> altogether happy with it. End users have a hard time with the
> product. Documentation groups and programming groups at AT&T use
> FrameMaker. Aster*x seems to be good at some things, but a "master" of
> none.
> Based upon what your "Needs..." are, I would suggest FrameMaker. The
> product is a native UNIX(R) application and is developed on Sun
> workstations. I would just verify with Frame that a filter exists for
> importing WordPerfect for Windows files and you should be happy with
> FrameMaker.

>From Tue Jul 13 16:22:15 1993
> No contest. Frame by a long shot.
> Frame is corporate standard for many WallStreet firms.

-------------------------------- R A Z O R --------------------------- \ \ \
  Tower Concepts, Inc John E. Ivory \ \
  103 Sylvan Way ... \ \
  New Hartford, NY 13413 (315) 724-3540 \
-------------------------- An Issue Tracking System -----------------------\
                    With Integrated Configuration Management

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