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Subject: Re: How FM plug-in developers are losing corporate sales
From: "Rick Quatro" <frameexpert@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 6 Dec 2005 07:16:51 -0500
Rick Quatro Carmen Publishing 585-659-8267 www.frameexpert.com
FrameMaker is indeed blessed with many wonderful plug-ins that vastly increase its utility. Most plug-ins came into being because their developers had an itch to scratch, and marketed them as a useful utility that a fellow sufferer might want. That is, the assumption behind the business model is that most FrameMaker users personally own their copy and are completely responsible for maintaining and upgrading it, and are also the purchasing decision makers. The reality is that most FM users are employees of companies who generally own multiple licences.
As someone whose job it is to support FrameMaker in a small team of ten writers, installing and updating a reasonable set of productivity enhancing plug-ins is a real pain. I would rather be handcuffed and hog-tied, then made to wriggle naked across red-hot broken glass than set up a new writer with FM and a standard operating environment of plug-ins and their configuration files.
Each developer has a different installation method, sometimes with an installer (yay!) but often requiring files to be copied into specific directories and maker.ini to be edited. Each has different ideas about where the plug-in should be placed and where its configuration files should be. Configuration files are sometimes just key-value *.ini files, other times special FrameMaker files are required, and then some initialisation information may even be on reference pages (I concede that sometimes specialist FM files or ref. pages are necessary).
And don't even get me started on the byzantine licensing schemes. Some require you to submit the FM serial number from which a hash activation key is calculated by the developer. I really love collecting the serial numbers from ten copies of FrameMaker every time we upgrade to a new release, then emailing them to the developer, receiving the hash keys, and visiting each installation to type in the activation key so the plug-in will work. Others require you to edit an *.ini file and some have a registration dialogue that pops up. Yeah, I really love going around to ten workstations and setting up eight plug-ins.
So you can see how the administration and maintenance of a reasonable number of plug-ins, plus configuring them (don't forget that!) could be a real pain and deter corporate customers. So have you plug-in developers collectively realised what a huge barrier faces corporate customers who would love to use plug-ins but are deterred by the hassle? A few of you out there who are completely in denial will suggest that writers could install the plug-ins themselves. Yeah, right, and they will probably take their turn at stacking the dishwasher in the kitchenette, not stealing someone else's coffee, parking their cars in the spaces reserved for staff and not in those reserved for customers which are much closer to the office, completing their timesheets on time, and not creating cowboy para formats.
Adobe has its Creativity Suite of applications. Why can't we have our FrameMaker Plug-in Productivity Package consisting of ten useful plug-ins with a consistent installation and registration system that sys admins and Tech. Comms support people can use to easily deploy as a standard environment on all the workstations within their care? Too hard? Then why don't you just licence your code to Adobe to clean up and integrate cleanly into the menu structure and GUI?
-- Hedley Finger Technical Communications Tools & Processes Specialist MYOB Australia <http://myob.com/au> P.O. box 371 Blackburn VIC 3130 Australia 12 Wesley Court Tally Ho Business Park East Burwood VIC 3151 Australia <mailto:hedleyDOTfingerATmyobDOTcom> Tel. +61 3 9222 9992 x 7421, Mob. (cell) +61 412 461 558
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