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Nisus Writer and technical writing 
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Joined: 2007-10-21 14:59:09
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Hi,

As a longtime technical writer, I use FrameMaker 6.0 in the Classic environment. Since Classic only runs in Tiger, this prevents me from abandoning Tiger for a more modern OS. I would like to use all those apps running on Leopard, and at the same time I can't (nor want) to switch to Windows. So, I'm planning to move my job to an application other than FrameMaker.

I would like this was a wordprocessor, since this would make exchanging files with translators easier, and purchasing the various copies of the app less expensive. Some of my translators already use OpenOffice. Nobody seems to use Word. Printouts are less than excellent and need some rework from me on Adobe Acrobat Pro - but they do work.

I would prefer to switch to Nisus, instead of OpenOffice or NeoOffice. This is a much more pleasant app, a faster one, and one whose developers you can actually talk to, to ask them to fix issues or add new features discussed with the user community.

There are still things missing, however, to make it a viable technical writing application. Not that I want a full FrameMaker replacement: I'm also starting to make my documents less complex than in the past. But some features are really too important to not use them.

- PDF Bookmarks

The main way of delivering documents to the final user is, now, the PDF file format. Unfortunately, NWP is still unable to save bookmarks and headings in PDF files, making them nearly unusable. An example is the (otherwise excellent) manuals of NWP: the only way of finding something is by using the search function, since there is no live TOC on the side of the viewer.

- Variables

In long documents, entering running header by hand is both time consuming and prone to errors. Variables would let you write something like <$h1> - <$h2> | <i>page</i> <$p> once, and have the running headers updated at each section/chapter, with something like "The Book of Nisus - Chapter 1 | page 1" and "The Book of Nisus - Chapter 2 | page 15".

They would also let you enter the name of a product or software version, and easily update it by just editing the variable, when creating a new version of the manual for a different product or a newer software version.

- Cross-references pointing to paragraph styles

Bookmarks are not a viable solution for cross-references, since you may edit a title, and easily forget editing the corresponding bookmark. Also, when translating a document, you are forced to also translate target bookmarks. If, on the contrary, your cross-reference target was a paragraph with a certain style and ID, the source would update automatically even after editing the target's text.

- Conditional text

I consider this a bit less important, but very handy in some situations. A feature has not been completed at the time of releasing the product, but you have already written the relevant instructions in various places in the document? Mark them as conditional, and hide all text with that condition mark. You will unhide it at the next release including the missing feature.

- Hyphenation or soft hyphen

Italian (and other languages) hyphenation is a mess. Either Nisus improves it, or at least give us a soft-hyphen character. Otherwise, we end up with grammar errors, or with hard-hyphens in the middle of text after inserting some more text before the hyphened word.

- Revision and versioning

Comments and colored text highlights are great features of Nisus, when revising documents in a team. But automatically tracking changes would be a very welcome addition.

When sending a revised document to the translators, it is very important to show where the original has changed. This helps translators see the new text in the right context.

I don't know if this can be done with external versioning or CAT software, and would like suggestions if it does.

- Floating frames

Floating frames are essential for marginalia, floating note boxes, floating pictures with captions, floating tables.

- Linked images

One of the problems with technical documents, is that all those large EPS and TIFF pictures tend to make the document extremely heavy. I know RTFD does memorizes text and pictures into separate files, but does RTFD preserves all Nisus features, like footnotes and comments?

Also, embedded illustrations should be editable. Is the LinkBack enough for this? I would love to use some LB enabled apps, so this would be perfect for me.

- Registration marks

PDF files for the printer are mandatory. Two sets of them, actually: a single line cut marker for Western printers, and a double line for Eastern.

When printing, Nisus should allow for additional space for register marks. If a document in A4 format must be printed, the resulting PDF file should be in A4 Extra, or any other exceeding format.

This can eventually be done with Adobe Acrobat Pro, but I wonder if can be had without forcing distributors to buy that expensive app, or forcing the original author to do it.

Best regards,
Paolo


2009-06-27 14:31:10
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Joined: 2007-04-12 04:01:46
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Location: Melbourne, Australia
Hello Paolo

Your problem, of course, is that you are switching from a $1000+ WP-DTP program to a $100 WP.

I would suggest that you would get all (or most) of the features you want in another $1000+ WP-DTP program -- RagTime. A cheap alternative that *might* have more of what you want is Papyrus (a German WP whicvh is somewhat individual; but they're more than a year behind schedule in upgrading the English version of the program -- not a problem if you work in German).

Let me comment on a few things.

-- PDF bookmarks

I'm not beta testing the next version of NWPro, so I can't say for sure, but there has been strong demand for this feature and I can't believe that it won't happen. Actually, I think it really odd that it didn't happen already, but there you go.

-- Variables

No need to go to the trouble of setting up the formatting like that, in fact.

Go Menu Bar > Window > Palettes > Header and Footer or look for the Header and Footer palette in the Tooldrawer. Now, for a letter, we normally have the first page set for different header and footer, but for a longer document we want all the headers the same or whatever. Make sure that in Header/Footer (sex 1) "Different First Page" is unchecked so the headers and footers will be the same throughout the document. In the header on the first page, type in your header, choose the type, format it in the usual way, and fo Menu Bar > Insert > Automatic Number, and insert the automatic number for chapter, Section Number, and the automatic page number WITHIN a section, the wrongly named "Pages in Section". Now, each time you insert a section break for a new chapter on a new page, the chapter (section) number will update in the header and the page number will switch back to 1.

***Note -- Martin: the "Pages in Section" is wrongly labelled; it should be "Page # in section". Note that "Pages in Document" is the total number of pages in the document -- correct nomenclature -- not the page number.

-- Cross-referencing.

I can't say anything about this. I haven't tried it in NWPro.

-- Hyphenation or soft hyphen

All hyphenation has been under scrutiny and soft hyphen has been very strongly requested. I suspect we will see it in the upgrade.

-- Revision and Versioning

Again, there has been strong demand for this and that it shoudl be compatible with the feature in MS Word.

-- Floating frames

There has been some demand for this in respect of captions for pictures and tables. It makes sense that it should happen at least in that respect given that captions are standard formatting.

-- Registration marks

Hoo, boy, you don't want much! What sort of print runs are you looking at? I do books using instant printing. Much more economical up to 1000 or so, probably 2000 -- and getting more economical daily. For that, you just use a standard page as your basis, and it is trimmed without rego or cut marks. Registration isn't needed for color because it is digital printing -- all the colors are printed at once.

Does any WP do registration and/or trim marks? I would think you'd need a DTP program for that because it looks at paper in a different way. With WPs, the page is it; in a DTP program, essentially a graphics program, the text is a box of stuff sitting on the page.

Cheers, Geoff

Geoffrey Heard
The Ad Doctor Online

Win business with the recession-busting "How to make great ads for (sm)all business: 99 real world advertising ideas to kickstart *your* business today". See http://www.worsleypress.com


2009-06-27 16:46:16
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Joined: 2007-03-03 09:55:06
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ptram wrote:
Italian (and other languages) hyphenation is a mess.
Hi, Paolo.
Actually there's no such thing as an Italian (or German, or Dutch…) hyphenation. NWP relies entirely on the Mac's hyphenation engine, which only has English patterns even though you are using an Italian (or German, etc.) OS.

I sent some ten feature requests to Apple, but I am of the opinion Nisus will sooner provide a way to it than Apple. And I think Nisus would do it better, at that.

When the day comes, I will be trashing Pages for good. I paid some money to be able to print which two or three Italian and Spanish documents I get over a year.

As for print marks, I agree with Geoff. I print a dozen pocket-size books a year, all with a laser printer. I've never used print marks. With a good printer you can almost reach perfection at little cost. You'll only need print marks if you are going to print separations, that is hand your works over to a professional print service.

Cheers, Henry.


2009-06-28 00:04:13
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Joined: 2007-10-21 14:59:09
Posts: 272
Hi Geoff,

greenmorpher wrote:
Your problem, of course, is that you are switching from a $1000+ WP-DTP program to a $100 WP. I would suggest that you would get all (or most) of the features you want in another $1000+ WP-DTP program

As premised, my goal is not finding a FrameMaker replacement. I'm ready to make my documents simpler, but at the same time there are things that seem to me essential. Unfortunately, none of the apps you cite are a replacement of FrameMaker - the only one being FrameMaker.

So, I would like to go for a less complex app - but also a more modern one. I'm asking to myself and my collaborators a change of mind: to no longer rely on the sense of power that some "mythical" apps give you, and use "lesser" tools to achieve the same goal. Make things simpler, cleaner, lighter.

All considered, our job is mostly made of text and tables, with most illustrations inline. Page layout is mostly consistent, with occasional boxes floating around. While still being publishing, this seems more a wordprocessing task, even if "advanced", than a page layout one.

Quote:
-- Variables
... for a longer document we want all the headers the same or whatever

Not so in my experience. Usually, to let browsing pages quickly, the left page has the title of the chapter, and the right one the title of the most recent sub-heading. Or both the chapter and sub-heading are together in both pages.

I plan to use sections to separate chapters. With the current version of Nisus Writer, I can manually enter the reference to each chapter (say, Heading 1) in the header on each section, and there is no way of entering a reference to the sub-heading (say, Heading 2). Unless I split the document into a separate section for each sub-heading, making it rather confusing.

Variable would make this reference to text automatic. Correct me if I'm misunderstanding, but you are referring to numbering, not to text?

Quote:
-- Cross-referencing.
I can't say anything about this. I haven't tried it in NWPro.

Targeting a heading requires marking that heading with a bookmark. FrameMaker (but also Mellel) allows for targeting a paragraph considered as an abstract entity; when text of that entity changes, the cross-reference text also changes.

Quote:
-- Registration marks
What sort of print runs are you looking at?

Sometimes it is 500 copies, some others 10,000. In the first case we use digital printing (no cut marks required), in the second we go offset, and cut marks are needed.

When I receive translations made in OpenOffice, I add cut/register marks in Adobe Acrobat Pro. I guess I can continue doing so with Nisus Writer, but I wonder if this can easily be added right in Nisus.

Paolo


Last edited by ptram on 2009-06-28 05:20:49, edited 2 times in total.



2009-06-28 05:09:03
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Hi Henry,

Groucho wrote:
NWP relies entirely on the Mac's hyphenation engine

Yes, I'm aware of this, and I keep sending mails to Apple each time I can. However, I fear the only solution is to do as Mellel and OpenOffice (and maybe Word) have done: getting rid of the Apple engine, and developing their own. In the end, most iPhone users will never complain about hyphenation...

Quote:
I print a dozen pocket-size books a year, all with a laser printer. I've never used print marks.

Unfortunately, they are still needed when printing in offset.

Paolo


2009-06-28 05:15:49
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Joined: 2007-03-03 09:55:06
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Location: Europe
Have you tried CocoaBooklet? It does a good job when it comes to printing booklets, pretty much like an offset printer. Also can print cutting marks. Search for it through Version Tracker (http://www.versiontracker.com/dyn/moreinfo/macosx/49228).

Greetings, Henry.


2009-06-28 08:26:14
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Hi Henry,

Thank you for your suggestion (in fact, I've used CocoaBooklet for years for printing my drafts). However, it has nothing to do with printing register/crop marks for typographic printers. It is meant to compose pages in an order suitable to print, you bet, booklets.

Since the latest version I have (2.0.4) is dated 2006, maybe a new version with new features has been release somewhere?

In any case, I guess Acrobat Pro will be a need for several other tasks (like password-protecting files), so I will be able to use it for adding crop/register marks when needed.

EDIT: It seems a lower priced options exists with PDFClerk:
http://sintraworks.com/index.php/sintra ... lerk_home/
Never tried, but I'll do.

Paolo


2009-06-28 08:59:56
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Location: Melbourne, Australia
Hiya Paolo

I understand you were ready to go to a simpler app, but in fact you are seeking a replacement *with* FrameMaker -- DTP -- features. Some of the features you require are exactly why FrameMaker and other DTP programs cost so much.

Paolo sez:
Quote:
All considered, our job is mostly made of text and tables, with most illustrations inline. Page layout is mostly consistent, with occasional boxes floating around. While still being publishing, this seems more a wordprocessing task, even if "advanced", than a page layout one.


Hence I suggested the WP driven DTP program, RagTime. It can do all you ask.

Paolo sez:
Quote:
Geoff sez
Quote:
-- Variables
... for a longer document we want all the headers the same or whatever

Not so in my experience. Usually, to let browsing pages quickly, the left page has the title of the chapter, and the right one the title of the most recent sub-heading. Or both the chapter and sub-heading are together in both pages.


Hey, you're cheating, Paulo~!!! You specified a certain outcome and I responded to that. Now you're shifting your ground. There has been discussion of different headers/footers for left and right pages in "Facing Pages" mode. Has it been picked up for the upcoming NWPro upgrade? We'll see.

If you have any number of tables, then I don't see that NWPro's rather clumsy tables tool will do the job for you at this time. It may be improved in the upgrade. I hope so.

As for registration marks -- I think you are tilting at windmills here, Paolo. You don't need them.

If you are going to do an instant print, you best do it with one of the big digital printers or at least copy their method. You set up your book to print on a standard sheet of either A4 or American Letter. You set your page margins to place the text where you want it on that sheet. The books is printed and assembled in that size, then trimmed equally at both sizes and equally top and bottom to reduce it to the size book you want. No color registration needed because all color printing is done simultaneously. No trim marks needed because the trimming is measured from the outside.

If your run is more than is economical in digital, any book printer (or their platemaking agent) in Australia, and I believe the same would apply elsewhere, will do the set up for separations and imposition themselves from your PDF files. You don't need to supply them with registration marks or trim marks -- they'll do it. In addition to ensuring placement is where they want it, they will also have to do a color check to make sure all color is according to their specifications, e.g. CMYK and/or spot colors.

They do this to ensure they have consistent files going to the platemaking machine.

Best regards, Geoff

Geoffrey Heard
Publisher, Editor, Business Writer
The Worsley Press

Get "Type & Layout: Are you communicating or just making pretty shapes?" to deliver your words with real zing; and "How to Start and Produce a Magazine or Newsletter" to learn to step safely in the publishing minefield. Amazon or http://www.worsleypress.com


2009-06-28 13:34:13
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Paolo, what about Scribus? It's free and downright manageable. It's a little quirky about fonts (discards those ones that don't meet strict PS standards), but it's otherwise a good piece of software. I would use it myself, if I hadn't an old carbon copy of InDesign, that is dauntlessly still going under Leopard.

Cocoabooklet is no longer updated. I think it's been discontinued. Trying to connect to the owner's site triggers 404 error.

And, Geoff, NWP already has different header/footer for facing pages. I regularly print books and booklets with different, odd-even headers. Or am I missing something in your post?

Greetings, Henry.


2009-06-29 00:27:48
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Geoff,

greenmorpher wrote:
I understand you were ready to go to a simpler app, but in fact you are seeking a replacement *with* FrameMaker -- DTP -- features.

FrameMaker is not a pure DTP app like, say InDesign or XPress. It is more a sophisticate wordprocessor, aimed at professional publishing (as you say, a "WP driven DTP program"). Some of its features would benefit wordprocessor users as well, and are, in fact, implemented in some other wordprocessors - even if in the wrong way.

Quote:
Hence I suggested the WP driven DTP program, RagTime. It can do all you ask.

While I've not tried the current version, I've lived some time with the idea of switching to RagTime. However, while looking at first like a viable replacement, I was not very comfortable with it. Some areas, like tables, are strong, while others seems only half-developed.

I could devote some other time to the new version, but even browsing through their messy, half-translated web site, with all those broken links, is not very inviting toward the program.

Quote:
Hey, you're cheating, Paulo~!!! You specified a certain outcome and I responded to that.

I wouldn't say that. But I'll try to be clearer.

My example shows a formula ( <$h1> - <$h2> | <i>page</i> <$p> ), where <$h1> is a variable pointing to the current paragraph with para style "Heading 1"; <$h2> is a variable pointing to the current paragraph with para style "Heading 2"; <$p> is a variable pointing to the current page number (this one already exists in Nisus Writer).

The formula is replaced, after editing, with the current text with the most recent corresponding text. So, if the current Heading 1 paragraph is "The Book of Nisus", "The Book of Nisus" will appear instead of <$h1>. At the same time, if the current Heading 2 paragraph is "Chapter 1", "Chapter 1" will appear instead of <$h2>.

The other use of variables I explain is this: in your document, do not write "iPhone"; instead, insert the <$prodname> variable. This will be immediately replaced with the word "iPhone".

When producing documentation for a different product sharing similar features, edit the <$prodname> variable, and assign it the word "iRadio". The variable will be immediately replaced with the word "iRadio" everywhere.

Quote:
There has been discussion of different headers/footers for left and right pages in "Facing Pages" mode. Has it been picked up for the upcoming NWPro upgrade? We'll see.

Actually, this is already in version 1.2, and I don't know when it was added.

Quote:
As for registration marks -- I think you are tilting at windmills here, Paolo. You don't need them.

Unfortunately, all printers in Italy, Japan and China are asking me to add them. I know this is something they could do in their impression software, but I guess they prefer to have the finished file, to be sure there will not be errors they could introduce. Also, most of my manuals, up to now, have "live" margins, and are supplied in a page format that is larger than standard, so crop marks are actually needed.

Best regards,
Paolo


Last edited by ptram on 2009-06-29 06:28:08, edited 1 time in total.



2009-06-29 06:12:54
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Henry,

Groucho wrote:
Paolo, what about Scribus?

It's different to what I'm looking for. Scribus tries to be a cheaper alternative to InDesign or XPress. As them, it is not comfortable with long documents, mainly based on text. It is nice, though, for making newsletters or small magazines.

Cheers, Paolo


2009-06-29 06:15:43
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Paolo

I hadn't been to the RagTime site for several years. Yes, I see what you mean. Click on the Union Jack and get ... German. Very professional.

NWPro 1.2 has different headers on facing pages? I know we talked about it on this forum, but I can't see it. Not that I have ever needed it because I'm producing my pages in DTP software (of a type that wouldn't suit you at all).

It seems to me that globat find and replace would handle a number of your variable requirements, e.g. a product name with another product name. If you wanted to do it all without looking at it, then you mightt write (or employ someone else to write) a script or set of scripts to do the job.

"Live" margins? You mean, margins you can encroach into? You're looking at some sort of frame-based app, i.e. a DTP construction. I think WordPerfect does/did that, but it's type handling and layout features were crude compared with true DTP programs.

Looks as though for the nonce you are condemned to "upgrade" to Windows and FrameMaker 9.

Cheers, Geoff

Geoffrey Heard
The Ad Doctor Online

Win business with the recession-busting "How to make great ads for (sm)all business: 99 real world advertising ideas to kickstart *your* business today". See http://www.worsleypress.com


2009-06-29 15:32:41
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greenmorpher wrote:

I hadn't been to the RagTime site for several years. Yes, I see what you mean. Click on the Union Jack and get ... German. Very professional.



Sure you were to the correct site? http://www.ragtime.de/start.html?lang_id=en

Just checked, I get English there. However, the company developing and selling it filed for bankruptcy last year. They are trying to emerge with a considerable reconstruction. It is now two companies, one developing it and one selling it. Don't know how they are doing, but they are not really snappy at updating the software. This latest version (6.5) which is the first universal binary version took them forever. Wonder if they will ever manage to do the switch to Cocoa. It's a pity... I used RagTime 5 on OS 9, and I loved it. I never switched to 6 which started to introduce some "word-isms" in the interface. Also, it never felt like a truly native OS X software. And as I no longer really need all the layout and structure features (I am now only writing shorter manuscripts, <50 pages), Nisus simply better suits my needs.

Martin


2009-06-29 22:44:33
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Hi Martin,

Agnostus wrote:
Sure you were to the correct site? http://www.ragtime.de/start.html?lang_id=en
Just checked, I get English there.

Now click on "Ragtime 6" in the side index, and you get...?

Quote:
the company developing and selling it filed for bankruptcy last year.

Sad news. I hope they can recover.

Paolo


2009-06-29 23:59:35
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Geoff -

..."not beta testing the next version of NWPro" -

we folks "Stay tuned"...

HE

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2009-06-30 06:38:26
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