Elements of professional working - Tools
From the discussion FrameMaker vs MS Word: Of course one can drill a dowel-hole into a brick wall just using the 'being all around screw driver' - but try that on a concrete wall or for 10s of holes ... Lazy people tend to use the tool they have at hand - and waste their lifetime with frustrating experiences. Professionals use professional tools. [KLD 2015-06-19]
Universal tools have their own charm. The Swiss Army Knife is world famous. But it is not this tool which I have in mind when requesting 'real' tools: Imagine those hammer + tong + saw instruments in 'survival kits'. Some of them even have a spoon and a fork attached... If you have a tool with combined functions and the tool breaks, none of the functions can be performed any more.
The other warning concerns the «strength» of a tool: While you can use a Black & Decker concrete drill for a while, a Hilti device will serve you 10 times longer and even has the power to drill 15mm holes. Even tools from major vendors are not always the best choice: Photoshop 5 denies the service with «not enough RAM» although you have 64 MB and PaintShop Pro works fine (because PhotoShop assumes the tempory files on the Windows partition and does not look into the preferences where you have stated a different path!)
Select your tools carefully. Good tools provide a stable kernel and the ability for plug-ins or API's for special tasks. You don't need the ballast of features you never need, which are just marketing arguments (think of most of the MS products).
How about a laser level for the carpenter? Soon the battery is empty and he is hapless...
Software vendors tend to blow up their products with features you will never need, but which are good to impress the amateur crowd.
Think about the fact that for 5 cured bugs 1 new bug is introduced. As long as you can live with the known ones (and have a circumvention for them) do net relay on promises of the marketing hype. For recent releases the support data base is empty and support people do not have any knowledge.
On the other hand a very outdated tool (such as version 4 while version 8 is the current one) lets you miss any knowledgeable people at all. You will need to dig in archives to find solutions to your problems.
Globalisation calls for standardisation – and application of these standards. Amateurs tend to reinvent the wheel and be to proud of their niche solutions. Setting up a project on established standards (such as SGML or PostScript) provides an approved base for a long life time:
- Can you still read your Commodore Tape cartridges? No? But a well equipped IT shop can still read the large tape reels with 800 (or even 256) bpi written in 1975.
- Have you tried to have an MS-Word document using TrueType fonts typeset and printed in volume? (While this was a serious issue in 1997, since 2000 the value of PostScript fonts has deminshed and TrueType has evolved into OpenType - even supported by Adobe …).
- Have you tried to maintain a Website created with an early version of MS-FrontPage and first tried to understand what's going on in that HTML code?
… Then you know what I mean by «industry approved standards».
In an early state of a project you (and even your client) will have only little insight into the project and its peculiarities. You need to have some figures (and know their dependencies) in your back hand to answer such questions as:
- What does it cost to create a user manual for this small dosing pump? How many pages do you assume to be reasonable?
- How long I will need to set-up this layout and style template in FrameMaker – and can it do what I want to appear on the paper?
- Can you set-up for me a web-site of about 8 pages with simple navigation and a feedback form within 5 days?
- Can you analyse an 800 page FrameMaker manual within 2 hours and evaluate the amount of work needed to streamline the layout and formatting (which is damaged by translation work given to various people) – and oh, the 200 or so graphics are done with Visio and imbedded by OLE.