Adobe’s Technical Communication Suite announced

Adobe has announced a Technical Communication Suite, combining FrameMaker, RoboHelp, Captivate, Acrobat 3D, and Flash, available in October 2007 for $1599 or $999 upgrade pricing if you already own one of the tools. This price point is well below what buying those products individually would cost (compare to $3600). I’m about a day late to the flurry of blog posts, as there are many bloggers commenting on this release, but many of them are focusing on the FrameMaker to RoboHelp single sourcing aspect, including the Adobe Technical Communication blog.

Scott Abel, The Content Wrangler, noted the price temptations, especially for people currently on RoboHelp. I’d just add that the upgrade price is the same price as Adobe Creative Suite 3 Web Standard ($999).
Dan Ortega’s message from Astoria appears to be but there’s no enterprise workflow and it’s a desktop solution, meaning, tech writers will still be the only users in a company using FrameMaker. Charles Jeter notes the same lack of collaboration in the suite in a nice wrap up post as well.

Sarah O’Keefe notes that most of her clients are going lighterweight than FrameMaker for their XML solutions.

Bill Swallow (techcommdood) notices that you can only go from Frame to RoboHelp, not back.

While single sourcing is always interesting to me, what I’m curious about are the use cases for Captivate, Acrobat 3D, and Flash, when using this Suite. I’ve used FrameMaker and RoboHelp in the past, but haven’t gone beyond the trial version of Captivate. So I looked at the webinar listing and there are hints at use cases that are an interesting sweet spot for the technical writer who wants to move past the static manual into interactive user assistance – not to mention the technical trainers looking for the correct tool to build interactive demos. Here are some catch phrases I lifted that might be just marketing-speak, but also might speak to where our profession is headed.

  • track help system usage
  • leverage existing content to create interactive help or performance support
  • question randomization
  • animation imports from PowerPoint
  • do this cool buzzword stuff… without the help of your engineering department

So perhaps a key aspect of what Adobe has heard from tech writers all over is, we want to do cool stuff, but we’re not getting the resources we need to program the cool stuff.

And indeed, the webinar folks seem to want to help define where we’re headed and how we’ll get there. To quote from the intro paragraph, “What does this mean for technical communicators, instructional designers and eLearning professional today and tomorrow?” As go the toolset, so goes the career? I suppose that the skill demand certainly shapes what you learn as a technical communicator in order to stay employable. Does your software toolset make you do your job a certain way?