Adobe FrameMaker 10 review

Price when reviewed

FrameMaker is one of the oldest desktop publishing packages, with a history stretching back 25 years. What’s always made it different to design-intensive rivals such as PageMaker and QuarkXPress is its more fluid document-centric approach to design.

This flexible approach comes into its own when producing documentation that’s constantly updated, and also when you need to produce multiple variations – say, for different languages. FrameMaker 10 adds support for the Documentum and SharePoint CMSes for workgroup-based authoring. You can also base conditional output on Boolean expressions – say, to output content tagged as Basic OR Standard, but NOT Advanced.

Technical documentation needs to be tightly controlled. FrameMaker supports fully structured documents where you can specify in advance what elements are allowed and which are required to be considered valid: for example, to ensure bulleted lists always have at least three items. The separate structured version of FrameMaker 10 adds a dedicated attribute editor, read-write rule maker and XML application wizard – although don’t expect such handling to be anything other than fiendishly complex. Using the enhanced Tag view you can also collapse and expand elements directly in the main Document view.

Adobe FrameMaker 10

When it comes to structured documents, the standard that FrameMaker goes furthest to support is Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA), a granular topic-based system specifically designed for the creation of manuals and online help. You get full support for the latest 1.2 standard, improved handling of specialisation, references, maps and keyspaces, and boasts a number of usability enhancements.

In addition to improved structural handling, all users will benefit from real-time spelling and grammar checking, as well as the ability to drag-and-drop text and elements within and across documents and applications. There’s also a new Table Catalog that makes it easier to apply and manage table styles, and improves handling of local formatting overrides.

FrameMaker 10’s design capabilities are strong rather than leading edge, but there’s one area in which it’s surprisingly advanced: support for rich media. You could already add content in a host of rich formats, including U3D for 3D models, native Photoshop PSD for images and Captivate-produced SWF for screen recordings and interactive training. Now the range is greatly extended with support for MP3 and WAV audio, and AVI, MOV, MPEG, WMV, QT and FLV video, all of which can be exported to interactive PDF and played back via Adobe Reader.


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