Tag Archives: myth

Myth #2: FrameMaker is only appropriate for printed books

While it is true that FrameMaker excels at the creation of printed content and PDF files, there is absolutely no reason that it should be limited to the creation of chapter-based and book-centric content. FrameMaker works with files, you get to decide what those files represent .. books, chapters, sections, topics, or snippets. For years, people have been using FrameMaker along with tools like Mif2Go, WebWorks, and others, to create both PDF/print output as well as numerous online formats. In those workflows, people generally authored in unstructured, chapter-based files.

With the growing popularity of XML (and DITA in particular), FrameMaker can still be used to author content in a chapter-oriented paradigm, but it can also be used to author individual topics just as easily as any other XML editor. Using DITA maps to organize the topic files (which may represent books, chapters, or other collections). These map and topic can then be passed to external processing tools (like the DITA Open Toolkit) to be generated into specific deliverable formats, and can also be processed within FrameMaker to be assembled into books.

You might suggest that authoring in FrameMaker forces people to think in a book-centric manner because of the print format of the WYSIWYG authoring view. Although this may be the way you’ve seen FrameMaker used, this is completely up to you as the author to format the authoring view however it makes sense for your workflow and writers. When opening an XML file, you select a structure application to use, which applies a template which defined the way the content is rendered on screen. You can set up this structure application with a print-focused layout or you can choose to use fonts and a layout that looks very simple.

One example of this is found in the default DITA-FMx 1.1 Topic application which has no indents, uses Verdana as the font throughout and looks more like a web page than a printed book. If you choose to create a PDF from the DITA map and use the default Book application, the print formatting is applied. But while authoring, using the Topic application, you are encouraged to focus on the content rather than the formatting since it’s likely that you are creating deliverables for multiple output formats, of which print (PDF) is only one.

Just because FrameMaker has traditionally been the standard tool for authoring long documents doesn’t mean that it can’t be used for topic-based authoring as well. It is a very flexible and customizable authoring tool, which should be evaluated carefully with other tools when selecting an appropriate XML editor.

Myth #1: FrameMaker isn’t a “real” XML editor

Well .. I guess you’d have to define “real XML editor,” but if by real you mean that the editor can open XML files on disk, and write the edited XML back to disk, then it’s as real as any other XML editor that I’ve seen. All XML editors have different features, and you may prefer one editor over another because of its features. But FrameMaker is definitely a real XML editor, because it can open, edit, and save XML files.

I hear people say that FrameMaker’s not a real XML editor because it uses a proprietary binary format and you can’t edit the XML tags directly. The truth is that all XML editors convert the XML on disk to some internal binary format while the file is open for editing. That’s how you get that nice tag coloring and fonts. Just because the XML you’re editing looks like the XML you think is in the file, that’s just eyewash. Granted, FrameMaker doesn’t let you edit the XML structure by entering tag names in angle-bracketed code, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are editing the same XML structure that you would with any other XML editor. It’s just a different rendering of the XML on disk than you’ll see in other tools. (It would be nice if FM provided a “code view” .. I hope that’s added in the future.)

FrameMaker does provide a number of views into the structure of the XML. It offers a “structure view” which is a collapsible tree of element nodes, allowing you to easily modify attribute values and rearrange the elements by dragging and dropping the nodes into new locations. It also offers a “tags view” which lets you see the element boundaries and their names in the content authoring window (similar to a code view, but you can’t actually edit the tags directly).

FrameMaker is actually one of the oldest XML editors on the market.┬áThere are valid reasons to use an XML editor other than FrameMaker, but the issue of it not being a “real XML editor” is not one of them.