Part 8: Reasons to upgrade from FM 7.x to FM 10: XML and Structured Editing

FrameMaker 10’s structured editing features and XML support have come a long way from the model introduced ten years ago with FrameMaker 7.0. That earlier release of FrameMaker combined two earlier separate products (Regular FrameMaker and FrameMaker+SGML), granting customers a “two-for-one” authoring solution; every copy of FrameMaker 7.x could produce either traditional unstructured documents, or structured FrameMaker documents that contained XML encased in a proprietary binary format.

At the end of this blog we will touch on the biggest difference between FrameMaker 7.x and FrameMaker 10, which is the basic workflow required to work with XML. Let’s start out, however, with how much the user interface and selection of tools has changed.

The scattered “structured” commands in FrameMaker 7.x

Compared to FrameMaker 10, using FrameMaker 7.x was a bit of an “Easter egg hunt” when it came to locating most of the commands necessary for working with structured documents. For starters, take a look at the FrameMaker 7.2 menu bar in the screen capture below and try to guess where the structured editing commands are located.

06 FM7 struct menus tool bar

You may have noticed that there is neither a “Structure” nor a “DITA” pull-down menu. Your most likely 11 FM7 Element
choice would be “Element”, which probably has something to do with structure. As the screen capture to the right (click for a larger view) reveals, the “Element” menu does contain some logical commands clearly associated with XML and structured editing. For instance, commands for merging or unwrapping XML elements are evident. Element Catalog and Validate are also commands under Element that would clearly have something to do with XML and structured editing.

The screen capture below contrasts the pull-down menu bar from FrameMaker 10, where the locations of structured editing and authoring menus are clearly more evident, as indicated by the red boxes.


For the rest of the FrameMaker 7.x structured menus, a bit of hunting is required. The boxed screen captures below show several examples.

01 FM7 struct menus

02 FM7 struct menus

The screen capture above reveals where a cluster of FrameMaker 7.x “structure” menus are located under the “File” menu, under the lower categories under “Utilities” and also “Structure Tools.” For sake of simplicity we did not make a screen capture of the “Set Structured Application” menu.

You will find a few more FrameMaker 7.x structured commands under “View” and “Special”.

04 FM7 struct menus

05 FM7 struct menus

Structured “workspace” in FrameMaker 7.x is based on document window

Our earlier blog, “Part 2 Reasons to upgrade from FM 7.x to FM10: Workspaces and a Friendlier UI” dealt with default and customized workspaces in FrameMaker 10. The user has a great deal of control over placement of frequently used menus and windows. Unlike FrameMaker 7.x, several structured windows and menus are independent of individual document windows.

The screen shot below shows the default workspace in FrameMaker 10 for structured editing, (in this case with a ditamap and DITA XML files, instead of a traditional FrameMaker book with binary files.)


In stark contrast, the screen capture below shows FrameMaker 7.x with arrows indicating which icon in the upper right corner of each document window invokes (a) Attributes, (b) the Structure view and (c) the Element catalog. Incidentally, unlike FrameMaker 10, in FrameMaker7.x the Attributes window is “modal,” meaning that you cannot edit text nor scroll through a document while it is open.

07 FM7 doc window struct menus

As described in our second blog, FrameMaker 7.x has a further limitation concerning the user interface: all documents and menus are confined to the FrameMaker “window” or single workspace. In contrast, with FrameMaker 10 you may drag any document or menu out of the workspace, even onto an external monitor. This can free up much more of the document content for viewing while editing and authoring.

Displaying element delimiters within document content

FrameMaker 7.x introduced two methods of viewing where elements begin and end in a structured document page. The View menu allows the user to see elements displayed as “tags” or as “boundaries”(square brackets), as shown in the screen captures below.

09 FM7 elem as tags

08 F7 elem boundaries

FrameMaker 10 has improved on this view by enabling displayed element “tags” to collapse and expand. This tremendously simplifies local editing of common elements like list items for instance, as shown in the screen capture below. In this case, the <li> item elements in a list have been collapsed. The black, selected element can be dragged and dropped in front of the first or second item on the document page, without having to use the traditional structure view window.


Structured authoring/editing in FrameMaker 7.x = a “round trip” to XML

FrameMaker 7.x used a different model for all structured documents, which is now an optional method in FrameMaker 10. XML files were “imported” into structured FrameMaker 7.x and converted to proprietary, binary *.fm files. Each structured document contained a “copy” of both the EDD (Element Definition Document = rules) and the structured template.

In order to achieve true XML after editing, the binary structured FrameMaker 7.x document would have to “save as” XML, and comply with the rules of the EDD and DTD and work with R/W (read/write rules). Any format overrides applied with traditional pull-down format menus (e.g. font, size, etc.) would be lost when a “saved” XML file is brought back into structured binary format. The illustration below shows how structured files and formatting are embedded in the structured, binary FrameMaker 7.x file.

FrameMaker 10 is also capable of this “traditional” roundtrip model, but has been expanded to directly support (a) native XML files saved in FrameMaker books and (b) direct editing of dita maps and all topic/concept content files. In this model, nearly all formatting is controlled form an “external” EDD and structured template in FrameMaker 10 that is invoked as XML or DITA files are opened. The illustration below symbolizes the manner in which native XML files edited or authored in FrameMaker derive their formatting and structure from external files, rather than embedded EDDs and templates.

07 new model

Benefits of “mixed” content during a transition to XML or DITA

In our earlier blog on Book building, we touched on the fact that FrameMaker 10 books can contain a combination of XML files and unstructured FrameMaker files. There are many benefits to this scenario as a temporary workflow during a customer’s migration of legacy files into XML and DITA. FrameMaker 7.x only supports binary FrameMaker documents (structured or unstructured) in a book, whereas FrameMaker 10 enables chapters to be in native XML format, but have generated TOCs and Indices, Appendices, etc. in unstructured, binary FrameMaker format.

Our next blog will touch on the many vast improvements in DITA support in FrameMaker 10.

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