Review of FrameMaker 12 – “Smart authoring meets new-age publishing”

So it’s almost instinctive for me to follow every release of FrameMaker and keep up with all the action. And this release being no exception to that, I had a chance to lay my hands on the newly released FrameMaker 12 over the last weekend.


I spent considerable time playing around and digging my hands deep into this latest release. My first reaction is that there’s quite a bit packed into FrameMaker 12 – some very significant changes along with a variety of smaller but very effective upgrades and improvements.


In a nutshell, this release provides several across-the-board improvements while focusing strongly on new capabilities and workflows for present-day publishing needs. Read on to deep dive into the details.



New and modern UI

Having seen several interface changes along the way, and some very drastic ones at that, the FrameMaker 12 interface did not jolt me with a completely new look. However, it did make me sit up and take notice – it’s cleaner, easier on the eye, and looks completely enlivened. I’ll credit the cheery looking interface to the new colorful icons – they give the whole interface a sprightly pop of color.

If you, however, prefer the old monochromatic look, you can always switch back to the regular greyscale icons. You also have an option to play around with the icon sizes, and choose from small or large-sized icons.

Apart from the aesthetic tweaks, I found a good bunch of functional improvements that are worth calling out.


Close and open multiple files in a snap

There’s a nifty Currently Opened Files dialog that lets you view, save, and close all open files in a single- click. I can imagine this feature getting a “God bless you” reaction from a harried technical writer chasing a deadline and working on half a dozen files.

Numerous user experience improvements

I also liked the addition of the Quick Element toolbar that lets you quickly insert commonly used elements in your structured authoring environment. Other useful improvements include the ability to drag and drop files in empty UI areas, a button to quickly close pods and panels, and the ability to minimize or maximize empty areas by simply double-clicking.


Overall, the interface changes are just perfect for a better experience — looks good, helps you work faster and better, and not drastically changed to make you feel like you have to relearn everything from scratch.

Reach your audience anywhere

A few years ago, saying that your content would be insignificant unless mobile-ready would be met with strong skepticism. Today, when we carry the Internet in pocket-sized devices, that statement is no longer debatable.


At a time when many Technical Publications departments are struggling to cope with cross-media publishing requirements, FrameMaker takes a huge step forward by letting you publish to print, Web, mobile, and e-reader devices with a single powerful workflow.


This new publishing workflow that lets you create eBooks directly from FrameMaker is a move in the right direction. Until now, the only way you could publish FrameMaker content to EPUB formats was by using RoboHelp’s eBook publishing capabilities via the TCS integration. But this was possible only with the additional task of mapping FrameMaker formats to the RoboHelp equivalents. Given the strict standards for EPUB, this was by no means a straightforward process.


The good news is that FrameMaker now makes eBook creation perfectly straightforward with an elegant workflow and powerful customization options. I was pleasantly pleased (and surprised) to note the level of customization that is offered with this workflow – making it almost effortless to publish highly stylized content to HTML5, Amazon Kindle, and EPUB formats with different specifications and across different form factors.



XML-only authoring

It’s long been on the wish list of many users to have an easy to use XML editing interface -a simplified XML editor without the trappings of the Unstructured mode of FrameMaker. Looks like Adobe has heard them loud and clear.


FrameMaker now offers a fully standards-compliant XML editor to create content based on DITA or any other custom structure. The FrameMaker XML Author provides a lightweight interface with just the necessary tools required for XML authoring.


FrameMaker XML Author is especially helpful when you collaborate with casual XML authors, like reviewers and subject matter experts, who need a simple intuitive interface to create content. What I really like about this feature is that while it’s been designed to be a WYSIWG XML Editor, it still offers you the choice of switching to an XML Code view.


You can purchase FrameMaker XML Author as a separate standalone product or use it in FrameMaker XML Author (FXMA) mode within your regular FrameMaker interface. If you belong to a Tech Pubs


department where authoring and publishing are distinctly separate groups, having a standalone FrameMaker XML Author would serve you well. Not only will it suit your needs but it’ll also be lighter on your pocket than the full version of FrameMaker.



Much-coveted MathML support and advanced XML authoring capabilities

FrameMaker’s inability to handle MathML equations has been its Achilles’ heel for a long  time now. In the past, some users said that they’d turned away from integrating FrameMaker as a full  XML editor simply because there was no easy way to work with math equations in FrameMaker.


Not any more – with this release, FrameMaker proves all its naysayers wrong. With its integration with MathML from DesignScience, you can work with math  equations in both FM XML Author and the full version of FrameMaker beautifully. When you copy and  paste MathML code into FrameMaker from an external editor, FrameMaker recognizes the math equations within the MathML code and handles the equations flawlessly.





Apart from MathML support, FrameMaker has enhanced its XML authoring capabilities overall. The XML editor is less cluttered, you can preview topic content from within a DITA map, and white space is handled much better than before.


By providing compete support for MathML code and all these powerful enhancements in the XML authoring space, FrameMaker is now an even more powerful XML editor.



Smart authoring gets smarter

FrameMaker 12 brings several significant enhancements that streamline your authoring workflows and improve your productivity.


Enhanced Smart Catalog

The Smart Catalog in FrameMaker lets you find and insert valid catalog elements quickly and easily. Typing the first few characters of the format, tag, style, or element name in the Smart Catalog will filter the list and quickly locate what you’re looking for. FrameMaker provides you handy keyboard shortcuts to insert the catalog elements. This feature is a major time-saver and a great productivity booster.




Talking of productivity boosters, FrameMaker now lets you restore your last session in just one-click. FrameMaker can reopen the view, the workspace, and the last document in focus — replete with pods and palettes from a previous session.


Enriched Search

FrameMaker’s Search capabilities have been given a complete overhaul with this release. The noticeable change includes expression-based search capabilities. You can now search for and replace regular expressions as easily as you would do with simple text. Search now also supports expressions/strings for three programming languages – PERL, EGREP, and GREP.


Easy QR code generation

Stepping outside the boundaries of conventional content authoring features, FrameMaker provides you the capability of creating and editing QR codes all from within FrameMaker. QR codes have become so popular and commonplace in promotional and advertising content, that I wasn’t entirely surprised to see this feature.



More effective single sourcing

Conditional Text has always been a strong feature of FrameMaker. Building on this further, FrameMaker now provides a new Conditional Text pod. The Conditional Text pod makes it easier to create and manage conditional text settings with a simple check-box mechanism.



FrameMaker does a neat job in guiding you with building complex conditional expressions by validating the expressions as you build them. Effective visual clues and the ability to use parentheses in Boolean condition expressions makes building complex conditional expressions seem like a breeze now.



Shared reviews and collaborations on-the-go!

Reviews play a pivotal role in any author’s life, and any efforts to make the review process more flexible for both the author and the reviewer are always welcome.


Greater power to PDF reviews

Knowing the popularity of shared PDF reviews, FrameMaker makes more value-added enhancements to this workflow: you can change the source in FrameMaker while its PDF output is being reviewed and still import review comments correctly. And to keep up with the mobile-savvy reviewers, FrameMaker supports adding comments to PDF-based reviews directly from a mobile device.


Content on the cloud

With the changing times, more and more users use DropBox to share and access content on-the-go. Especially when you need to share a bunch of files securely with a group of people outside your network file share, DropBox is a good and popular choice. FrameMaker now provides a direct integration with DropBox making it easy to share your content with both internal and external reviewers.



Automated Web publishing using FrameMaker Publishing Sever

Clearly this release is all about building on strengths and delivering new features that are most essential to present-day publishing needs.

FrameMaker Publishing Server 12 integrates seamlessly with three industry-standard CMS: Adobe AEM, Documentum , and SharePoint.


FrameMaker Publishing Server 12 can also now be provided as a Web service to publish content over the Web. The publishing process can be automated, reused, and allow multiple users to publish simultaneously.


The FrameMaker Publishing Server also provides you a new Web API that lets you build an integrated publishing workflow from any CMS to FrameMaker Publishing Server 12.


I can evidently see the benefits of these enhancements in large-sized organizations that handle high volumes of content and need automated publishing workflows that produce consistently high-quality output.


Other noteworthy improvements

Like I mentioned at the beginning, this release is packed with several enhancements. And there are some very notable ones, like these, which I’ve not covered in detail:


  • a redesigned template browser and new samples including a DITA sample,
  • integration with several popular content management systems in the XML and DITA space,
  • integration with Adobe Experience Manager for efficient digital asset management,
  • and much more.


While I would love to get into the nuts and bolts of all these features, I found some excellent resources from Adobe that talk of all the features in good detail. So, I’ll list them down here for you to read through:


FrameMaker What’s New


FrameMaker Using guide


FrameMaker Reviewer’s guide


Overall verdict

FrameMaker 12 is a big step forward from FrameMaker 11 with some fantastic new features that improve your authoring and publishing workflows, make you more productive, and most importantly meet all your new-age publishing needs.


With this release, Adobe has proved yet again that they’ve been listening to the users and the community and making enhancements in the most substantial areas as well as those little things that make a difference.


While it’s always difficult to choose a single authoring tool that meets the need of each and every user, I’m happy to say that FrameMaker 12 has surely arrived as the most viable authoring tool of the future. FrameMaker is ready to take on the publishing needs of the new-age world with much élan!