One more reason to upgrade to FrameMaker 10

by Maxwell Hoffmann

During my recent years consulting and managing production in the translation industry, I encountered far too many customers who stayed “stuck” on an aging version of FrameMaker. Usually it was FrameMaker 7.2. In my new role as Product Evangelist for Tech Comm Suite, I’ll be authoring several future blogs which willcover many reasons for upgrading to the current version of FrameMaker from FM7.2. But this blog will touch on just two features that can pay for the upgrade fee by eliminating “lost hours” on manual processes required in out-dated versions of FrameMaker.

Ironically, some FM7.2 and FM8 users have resisted an upgrade because the user interface was radically overhauled in Version 9. Although the new UI can take some getting used to for veteran users, within a few hours you will find FrameMaker’s customizable workspaces hard to live without. One of my translation agency clients witnessed a 15% decrease in post-translation formatting once their project was upgraded to FrameMaker 9 due to the manual steps that were eliminated by several new UI features.

For sake of simplicity, this blog will focus on regular (unstructured) FrameMaker. All features and principles have parallels in XML or DITA editing/authoring with FrameMaker.

After reading this blog, I encourage you to review an excellent blog by Adobe’s Kapil Verma on “Making FrameMaker your “own” — How to customize the User Interface“.

FrameMaker pods: “real-time” feedback on cross-references

Once you start using FrameMaker 10’s pods for displaying unresolved cross-references, (and other hidden text) you may look back on older versions of FrameMaker as if they were cars that lacked a gas gague on the dashboard. Early automobiles over 100 years ago required the driver to dip a wooden stick into the gas tank every so often to find out when a fill up was required. Trying to move back from FrameMaker’s pods’ realtime feedback is like having a modern instrument cluster on your vehicle’s dashboard for the first time.

The screen capture below contrasts the user interface feedback on an unresolved cross reference between FrameMaker 9 and 10 v.s. the technique required in older versions (shown by the “boxed” document fragment in the lower right corner.) An explanation follows.

Unresolved cross-references (xref) can occur in FrameMaker if the source marker or paragraph containing the marker is deleted. Before FrameMaker 9 and 10, tracking down and correcting unresolved xrefs was no picnic. The user needed to generate a document or book-level “List of References”, specifying “unresolved cross-references.” This created a document that looks like the boxed text in the lower right area of the screen capture above. (Note: this document only has one xref; it would be possible to list many unresolved xrefs from an entire book.) Essentially, this list of references was a polaroid snapshot of your xref situation at that moment.

FrameMaker 9 introduced the pods seen behind the document. Convenient headings indicate the xref format, page location, source document and status. A red “x” in front of the xref indicates that the xref is unresolved. The column in the pod indicating the original source document gives you a clue as to which text was originally referenced. Unlike the manually generated “List of References”, this pod display is dynamic and displays current conditions. [Per comments, you do have to click on the refresh button.] The references pull-down near the middle of the pod header lets you filter the display of xrefs to all cross-references, external cross-references or unresolved cross-references.

This feature stops mistakes as they occur.

Viewing all FrameMaker index marker content in one menu

Markers can be used in dozes of ways in FrameMaker, but Index markers are probably the most familar marker type to users. FrameMaker has powerful indexing capabilities, with virtually unlimited “nested” index entries. Separating text strings with a colon in an index marker will produced index entries that are indented and sorted under the same topic like the screen capture below.

Older versions of FrameMaker had no way of viewing the exact marker content of multiple markers simultaneously. Why does this matter? Being human, we are capable of inserting an extra space at the end index marker text. This can generate “look alike” or duplicate index entries. Older versions of FrameMaker had a modal dialogue that would display the content of one marker at a time; body text editiing was not possible during this display.

The new index marker dialog may be “docked” and show the content of a currently selected marker. Or, you may use the pods at the bottom of the document window to show all index markers, sorted in a variety of ways, as shown in the dialogue below.

This feature of seeing marker content while editing a document is a major time saver, especially in translated documents where one index marker may have “slipped through” in English for some bizarre reason.

This “short n’ sweet” blog touched on a fraction of the improvements made with FrameMaker version 9 and 10. I encourage you to visit some of the following blogs and sites for more information on the functionality discussed in this brief blog.