What program do I use to create a manual or catalog?
The last time I did any desktop publishing it was ten years ago and I used Microsoft Publisher. Now I need to put together a product user manual, troubleshooting guide, and a new catalog. I figured Adobe would be the place to start, but their product features section focuses so much on cross-platform functionality and collaboration that I can't tell which product, if any is used to lay out a multi-page document. I'm primarily a Windows user on a desktop. I can afford software licenses but I'm not married to Adobe. Where do I start?
EDIT: I'm a mechanical engineer with very little desktop publishing experience. The documentation I'm trying to create includes the installation manual for my product, a separate troubleshooting manual, and a product line catalog. I have two engineers working for me contributing content. We don't all have Publisher so I would prefer to find another program, preferably one with the smallest possible learning curve. If the results look too rough, I can always turn the result over to a professional and say "Make it look like this, only better."
You need to answer some questions first.
1. What is the use of the document?
a) It can be for commercial print, let's say if you need to do more than 500 copies of it, needs to be distributed in a printed format to customers or it is a material for an expo for example.
b) Or it is only to be printed in the office's laser printer, you only need one dozen copies for a meeting.
c) It is for electronic distribution, mainly on a pdf format and the user does not intend to print it.
d) Some other usage.
2. Is this a one time job?
e) Are you willing or need to learn a new program, spend some cash and time on it, because you need to do this kind of jobs periodically.
f) You only need to do this one time and that is it.
For commercial print, I totally recommend that you or your boss hire a designer, because there are a lot of intrinsic problems related to commercial print and they will impact on the finances. It is not a trivial job.
But let's say you want to prepare the content and let the designer only to solve some technical problems.
Then you need a real desktop publishing solution, so the output is in the correct form.
The main program used is InDesign, that can be used on a monthly basis. But there are some other options. Not very popular anymore is QuarkXpress, but I think you need to purchase it.
A free program is Scribus it has limitations but it is good enough if you know what are you doing.
The next option is Corel Draw, that has a real multipage system and some publishing tools like master styles, that is fine for small publications, let's say 48 pages, but you can work in modules and do longer publications.
Another program is Affinity Publisher, that on this date (Dec 2018) has a beta program.
But if it is only for the office, for a meeting; If you still have Publisher and that meets your requirements, use it.
You can also simply use Word, that has a lot of tools to do a decent job, or you can use a free office suite, like Libre office.
But one thing is assembling the publication and another thing is to make the images for it.
You probably need an additional program if you need diagrams. Like Illustrator, Affinity design, or Corel Draw that I already mentioned.
Or probably you need 3D models, CAD blueprints, etc, then need to be imported on your layout program.
But again, if your company really needs printed and electronic documents, hire a designer. Keep in mind that a document is not just a bunch of text with some smeared images. It needs to be prepared so people actually want to read it.