Part 9: Reasons to upgrade from FM 7.x to FM 10: “Real” support for DITA

Amongst the many compelling reasons for upgrading from FrameMaker 7.x to FrameMaker 10, real “out-of-the-box” DITA support would surely be near the top of the list. Although FrameMaker 7.x was a competent and potent structured editor in its day, it was developed before most major milestones in DITA development and approval were achieved.

A timeline of DITA and FrameMaker 7.x development

The list below shows the dates for DITA milestones (pulled from Wikipedia), interspersed with release dates for the 3 version of FrameMaker 7.x. As you can tell at a glance, the last version of FrameMaker 7.x (V7.2) came out too late to even support DITA v1.0.

Limitations of the FrameMaker 7.x structured editor

As covered at the end of our previous blog, “Part 8: Reasons to upgrade from FM 7.x to FM 10: XML and Structured Editing”, FrameMaker 7.x had a structured editor that only supported direct editing and authoring of proprietary, binary FrameMaker format documents, which happened to contain full XML structure. The illustration below was pulled from page 75 of the FrameMaker 7.2 Structure Application Developer’s Guide. This diagram makes it evident that structured application files (especially Read/Write Rules) controlled the “save as XML” function and also the ability to open XML files as structured binary *.fm files.

00 Struct App diagram

FrameMaker 7.2 was released with a “DITA starter kit” which included sample application files and guidelines for developing a structured application that would allow structured FrameMaker 7.2 documents to “parallel” DITA. In theory, with considerable customized development, the publisher would be able to “save as XML” to DITA compliant structure, and bring DITA files back into structured binary FrameMaker format.

There were, however, considerable limitations. The screen shot below shows the cover of the FM7.2 DITA starter kit documentation (4 pages long) and a disclaimer paragraph from the last page. Note: click on any of the images for a larger view.

06 FM7.2 DITA starter kit cover

07 FM7.2 DITA starter last page DISCLAIMER

This is nothing to be ashamed of. After all, FrameMaker 7.2 was release seven years ago. And DITA itself has changed a great deal over that period of time.

Early DITA support in FrameMaker 7.2 was basically a “prototype”

Other limitations of early DITA “support” are evident in the screen capture below, drawn from the FrameMaker 7.2 Reviewer’s Guide. The red squares emphasize some elements that are clearly proprietary to FrameMaker 7.2. Clearly, <adobeindexterm>, <adobe fig> and <adobeimage> are not native or valid DITA element names.

01 FM7.2 DITA doc image

With considerable effort using processing instructions and XSLT style sheets, it may have been possible to convert these elements to correct DITA names. That effort would certainly be beyond the ability of the average user.

In contrast, the FrameMaker 10 screen capture below shows an edited version of one of the sample files from DITA Open Toolkit, showing correct names for <indexterm>, <fig> and <image>. These elements are freely available from the element catalog provided by the built-in DITA structured application in FrameMaker 10.

05 FM10 DITA SAMPLE index and fig

Complete DITA support in FrameMaker 10

In the ensuing ten years since the initial release of FrameMaker 7.0, FrameMaker has undergone extensive development that dramatically improved the structured editor and structured applications which support XML and DITA. Unlike FrameMaker 7.x, the current release of FrameMaker 10 (a) enables direct opening and saving of XML files with no “save as” conversion feature, (b) allows XML or DITA files to be saved in a FrameMaker book and (c) opens support for directly opening, saving or creating a dita map.

Full support for DITA 1.1 and DITA 1.2 standards

It would take half a dozen blogs to fully cover all of the major features of DITA 1.2 fully supported in FrameMaker. For a dynamic look at some of these features, you may wish to download the PDF versions of the FrameMaker 9 Reviewer’s Guide and the FrameMaker 10 Reviewer’s Guide; both of these documents are embedded with narrated Captivate “movies” of key features. Just look for “Enhanced DITA Support” in the PDF Bookmarks.

The following list summarizes some key DITA features supported in FrameMaker 10 that you will not find in FrameMaker 7.x:

- User friendly UI for DITA maps, bookmaps and DITA Resource Manager - Support for DITA 1.1 - DITA files can be opened or saved on HTTP paths with direct access to Content Management Systems (CMS). - Save DITA map as a composite FrameMaker document or book - Save DITA map directly as PDF - DITA conditional processing is now enabled - Support for DITA Specialization - Support for DITA Relationship Table - Create conrefs to an image, table or table-components. Conref supported in DITA maps - Enhanced FrameMaker cross reference support with DITA link support - DITA indexing specialization allows for Index, See and See Also entries.

- Map-level support extended to <keydef> element, <title> element support in <reltables> and <topicset> groups a set of topics together - Conref range support - Updates to Conref Range content - Support for <topicsetref> - DITA specialization supported - Can switch to Resource Manager (RM) or Document View in a dita map - Insert Child/Sibling (topicset or topicgroup to a dita map) - Drag and Drop across dita maps - Insert multiple Topicref elements in a dita map

As mentioned earlier, all of these DITA 1.1 and DITA 1.2 features are supported in FrameMaker 10 “out-of-the-box.” No special files or toolkits need be downloaded to invoke these features. As documented in many of our recorded eSeminars, FrameMaker 10 is a full-fledged DITA editor.

Prove FrameMaker 10 DITA support with your own hands-on

Since earlier versions of FrameMaker had extremely limited DITA support, there are still some skeptics out there who are not convinced that FrameMaker 10 is a “true” DITA editor. If you have any lingering doubts, we encourage you to do the following, simple exercise:

Another benefit to FrameMaker 10: a migration path to DITA

Many content creators are ready to make the move to DITA, but have a huge amount of unstructured legacy documents, often in Microsoft Word or unstructured FrameMaker. FrameMaker 10 has an excellent Word filter and will do an admirable job of converting Word files to unstructured FrameMaker. As demonstrated in a series of 7 Part FREE E-Seminar Series – Unstructured Doc To XML / FrameMaker 10 Instructional Series blogs, created by Tom Aldous, it is relatively easy to convert unstructured FrameMaker 10 documents to XML or DITA.

Upgrade from FrameMaker 7.x and let FrameMaker 10 be your pathway to DITA. It is probably one of the most painless ways you can swiftly achieve structured content that is ready to be transformed into a variety of deliverable formats. FrameMaker 7.x was a very capable product “back in the day,” but it’s time to move on up to FrameMaker 10 to ensure that your content is as flexible and as reusable as possible.

Watch for our final “Part 10” blog for conclusions.

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