In the first semester of Algonquin’s technical writing program, I learned how to use Adobe FrameMaker.
Click here to see a manual I created using FrameMaker.
I understand that FrameMaker is a powerful tool intended for creating technical content. Someday, I’m guessing I’ll need to use FrameMaker or a similar software again to create more complex or lengthy manuals. But for now I’m so much more comfortable using Microsoft Word. So since completing the FrameMaker course, I’ve learned how to put together and easily manage a decent looking manual with several chapters using Word and Adobe Acrobat.
Click here to see a manual I compiled using the method explained below.
The process can be a bit tedious, and maybe there are easier ways of doing this (let me know in the comments!) but this has worked for me so I wanted to share it here.
Please note that you’ll find these instructions more detailed than necessary if you’re already familiar and comfortable with using Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat.
- Write your first chapter using Microsoft Word.
- In the Header & Footer section, select the checkbox beside Different Odd & Even Pages.
- Consider designing your header with the company’s logo and the page number in the upper left corner of the even pages (shown below) and just the page number in the upper right corner of the odd pages.
- If you’re having trouble formatting the page numbers so they’re on opposite sides of the page (left for even and right for odd), leave them both on the left. Double click on the page number of the odd page and press the Tab key on your keyboard twice. This will push the number to the right side of the page and all the subsequent odd pages will be similarly formatted.
- The design of the header will remain the same for each chapter, but the footer will be different because it will include the specific chapter name. Consider placing the manual name on the bottom left of even pages and the chapter name on the bottom right of odd pages.
- Save the completed chapter to a new folder and name the file “manual name_chapter name.”
- Open the first chapter.
- Select Save As.
- Type in your new chapter’s file name and select Save.
- Delete the content of the first chapter (but not the header or footer) and begin writing the second chapter (this will keep the styles, bulleted lists, headers, footers, etc. consistent).
- Rewrite the footer of the odd pages to match the new chapter name.
- Determine how many pages you will need for a TOC (table of contents). For these instructions we will use the example of two pages being used for the TOC.
- Open your first chapter and go to Page Number>Format Page Numbers.
- Under Page numbering, select Start at and type in the page number of the first page of the first chapter (in our example, the TOC takes up two pages, so we are starting the first chapter on p.3).
- Continue this process for every subsequent chapter, starting the page numbering where the previous chapter left off.
Creating the TOC
After completing the chapters and adjusting the page numbers, it’s time to create a TOC.
- Create a new document and type out the title of the first chapter.
- Press the Tab key on your keyboard twice and type the page number of the first chapter so it is aligned with the right margin.
- Below the chapter title, insert a table with two columns and at least two rows.
- Make the right hand column very narrow and specify that the text in that column should be right aligned.
- Type each heading and subheading of the first chapter in the left hand column, adding rows as needed.
- Type the corresponding page numbers in the right hand column.
- Indent the subheading titles to the right so they are distinct from the heading titles.
- Remove the table border by selecting No Border from the Borders menu in the Table Design section.
- Repeat this process for each chapter by copying and pasting the table you used from the first chapter.
- Save the TOC to the same folder where you saved the chapter files.
Compiling the PDF
- Open Adobe Acrobat and select Tools from the top menu.
- Select Combine Files.
- Add all of the Word documents from your manual folder.
- Rearrange the files so they are in the correct order (you can also add a title page Word document at the beginning or include a title page as the first page of your TOC. If you add it to your TOC, start the page count at zero and remove the page number from the title page by selecting Different First Page under the Header & Footer section).
- Select Combine.
- Save your PDF manual.
And you’re finished! I hope you find this helpful. I realize it might seem like a lot of extra work. The two major annoyances are creating a TOC manually and editing or updating a finished manual. When you need to edit one part of the manual, that means re combining all of the files again in Adobe Acrobat and sometimes adjusting the page numbers. However, for minor changes, you could just use the Edit PDF feature in Adobe Acrobat and change the already-combined-PDF rather than making changes in Microsoft Word.
And if you enjoy using Microsoft Word, this method does allow you to work with larger projects in manageable chunks, which I really prefer to working with one long Word document.