Welcome to FrameMaker

Welcome to my FrameMaker page. If you are not familiar with this program, you are not alone. Many, who think of themselves as technical writers are themselves unfamiliar with many of the features this powerful program has to offer. Hence I created this page to help you discover why FrameMaker is considered the program of choice for technical writers. And of course to sell my eBook.

As a side note this page works in conjunction with my Technical Writing page. As a technical writer I use a variety of software programs but Frame is my go-to work horse.

First and foremost FrameMaker (commonly called Frame) is designed specifically for technical documentation. It is one of the few programs that was coded to create and maintain complex and extensive technical content. It is not the only program created for this purpose, but in my opinion it is the best. The only other program which even comes close is Interleaf (now called Quicksilver).

In it's day Interleaf was a great technical publishing software product but lack of easy access to adequate training and the management decision not to continue and support feature developments has landed Interleaf on the heap pile of WordStar and other semi-abandoned software products. While Interleaf is still around and used in various areas, Adobe FrameMaker has surpassed the program as the program of choice for technical documentation.

Madcap is now offering software to replace both FrameMaker and RoboHelp. I have not used this program so I cannot relate to merits of it, but it does look interesting. However I did check out the cost: Ouch. But then again FrameMaker is also Ouch. And of course I know FrameMaker.

FrameMaker is considered a "complete" publishing system and provides all the tools necessary for building a single document, book, or multi-volume books. However Frame is not the easiest program to learn as the learning curve is almost vertical. It does, however, have more training resources than Interleaf. It also has a large base of dedicated users.

So what makes FrameMaker special and why should you learn it? Glad you asked because I'm gonna tell you. And we shall start with the differences between FrameMaker and another good product: Microsoft Word.

FrameMaker vs. Microsoft Word

You Should Always Use The Right Tool for the Write Job.

There is a lot of opinions and articles on Frame verses Word, some are really good and worth the read. Word is a very good product which I use all the time, for generic tasks. Word is fantastic for general writing as it is easy to use even for the first time word processor user and it has many features that make it stand out in the crowd of word processors. However Word has one drawback, it chokes on graphic, table intensive documents. Word was not designed to handle an extremely complex document such as a thousand page maintenance manual.

I know, it has been done but chances are the writer spent more time fighting the software than writing the material. Think of it this way, would you use a screwdriver to hammer a nail or a hammer to drive a screw? It can be done but how efficient is it? Software programs are no different. I don't use Frame to write general correspondence as it is not an efficient use of time to do so. I could use a FrameMaker template but the template would have to be changed to meet the demands of the document and/or the client. Word is much simpler to use for those immediate memos or letters, especially where the format needs to change constantly.

By the same logic the time spent setting up a complex project in FrameMaker can save hours of headaches should I have to use Word for the same task. The right tool for the write job, it's as simple as that.

OpenOffice and FrameMaker

There are some articles concerning OpenOffice and how Frame is past its prime, but I don't believe that to be the case. I use OpenOffice on my laptop as it is free and comparable to MS Word. Since my laptop is not my primary computer I use the open source programs because they are compatible and usable with Microsoft office.

Still... if you cannot afford FrameMaker or MS Office and need to create technical documentation my experience has proven that OpenOffice Writer is a good alternative. And in some areas OpenOffice Writer exceeds the power of MS Word.

That said, is OpenOffice Writer a replacement for Frame? Not in my experience. There is only one other program I use constantly in my work which exceeds FrameMaker, and I talk about it next.

FrameMaker vs. Arbotext

Technical writers, for the most part, are familiar with another technical writing tool -- Arbotext Editor. Like FrameMaker, Arbotext has a vertical learning curve and requires a lot of time to learn. Arbotext does one thing basically – SGML/XML documentation. And it does it very, very well. It does it so well Arbotext has become the tool of choice for SGML/XML projects within the Department of Defense and other branches of Government, plus major contractors and corporations.

Arbotext is the tool of choice for creating S1000D documents and in this manner beats FrameMaker hands down. The drawback with Arbotext is the cost, as it is extremely expensive meaning only major corporations can afford the product. Thus in reality, for the average technical writer, this program is out of reach as a personal software acquisition.

I use Arbotext in my day job all the time and I am very good at it, so I know from experience when it comes to SGML/XML documentation FrameMaker comes in a distance second. But since Arbotext is out of financial reach FrameMaker must fill the gap, and it does so effectively, if you know how to use the structured side of the program.

Basic Training – The FrameMaker eBook

It takes more than this simple page to learn FrameMaker and as this side of the website continues to grow I will be addressing FrameMaker training more in depth. However to get you started learning the basics of Frame I want to introduce you to an eBook I wrote many years ago. This eBook covers only one topic – Basic Training.

FrameMaker Basic Training assumes you have absolutely no experience using the program but you need to learn FrameMaker for your job. Hence I take you step-by-step and explain how to create and publish a basic FrameMaker document.

That's the good news, now the bad: I wrote this book years ago and it covers only version 7.1. That was many versions ago. Since then the entire FrameMaker interface has changed and many additional features were added. HOWEVER... the basics of creating an unstructured FrameMaker document has not changed all that much and many of the processes I discuss applies to ALL versions of FrameMaker 6.0 and later. Prior to version 6 Frame published documents in a very different, but difficult way so I don't discuss anything prior to version 6.

In addition the book needs an editor so there may be, correction there are, some grammar mistakes in it. Thus I am selling it "as is" and I'm letting it go cheap. How cheap? Very. I put a lot of work into creating this book but I let it set for years on my desktop, now it is time to move it out and make room for the next version.

So just how in-depth do I go? (Don't you just love how I gloss over the price issue?) The answer is very. But to really answer that question I decided to take sections out of the book, compile them, and make it a free download. This excerpt is about 100 pages long in total with the actual book exceeding 550 pages. I encourage you to download the excerpt and evaluate it. This way you can determine if this eBook is for you and your needs.

There are some restrictions with the excerpt and I discuss them later, but first there are a couple of other issues we need to address.

Creating FrameMaker Documentation

Creating a basic FrameMaker document and printing has changed very little over the years despite the interface changes. Paragraph and Character tags are basically unchanged, only the method of accessing them, and that change occurred with version 9. What is important is understanding how the tags work, as you can always figure out how to open/access the tags (which isn't all that difficult, even with Version 9+). The same is true with tables and word processing procedures.

Since Basic Training doesn't address structure formats (XML, SGML), conditional text, or other "advanced" topics you don't need to concern yourself with this material. Basic Training is NOT an everything FrameMaker book and I concentrate ONLY on the basics, but even with those restrictions the entire book exceeded 550 pages.

FrameMaker Basic Training

FrameMaker Basic Training is written for the novice not the experienced Frame user. If you have been working with Frame for awhile chances are you have a very good understanding of the program already so this material will be old hat and not very productive to you. However for the novice, those of you who have never used FrameMaker, you will find the information in this eBook valuable and written in such a way that even I can understand it. (And that's saying a lot!)

Now a WARNING: FrameMaker is NOT an easy program to learn and use, in the beginning. However once you learn the basics of the program and begin to create graphic/table intensive documents you will wonder why you didn't learn FrameMaker sooner. So my advice, take your time when learning the program, understand the concepts involved. I also recommend you explore other books for another learning prospective. The difference between other Frame books and my eBook is they are everything Frame where I concentrate ONLY on the basics and nothing else.

So what will you learn exactly? Here is a list of the topics Basic Training covers (alphabetical order, not learning order):

  • Book Building
  • Character Designer and Font Catalog
  • Cross Referencing
  • Find and Replace
  • Formatting
  • Frame Interface
  • Graphics
  • Importing Text and Graphics
  • Master Pages and Page Layout
  • Paragraph Designer and Paragraph Catalog
  • PDF, Creating
  • Reference Pages
  • Spell Check
  • Table Designer and Tables
  • Table of Contents, List of Tables, and List of Figures
  • Templates
  • Variables
  • Word Processing

If you need to learn FrameMaker this is the best place to start, with the eBook: FrameMaker Basic Training.

The Free Download

Now onto the download: Before you download the FREE excerpt there are some restrictions you need to be aware of:

  • The document is copyrighted so any reproduction in any form is strictly prohibited.
  • The document is a secured PDF and allows no edits or copying, but does allow printing.
  • You need Adobe Acrobat (or the Reader) version 7 or later to read this eBook and use the features the book calls for. You can download the latest version of the Adobe Acrobat Reader here.
  • IMPORTANT: Because this is an abridged version, the cross-references DO NOT WORK. They do work in the full version.

To get the free excerpt click this link: FrameMaker Download.

The link opens a PDF document in a new window/tab/dialog box where you can open, save, or download it to your preferred location.

Finally The Cost

Had I sold the book a few years ago I would have charged a minimum of $40.00 for it, but today because it is somewhat outdated there is no way I can charge that much. So the fundamental question becomes "how much" am I selling this eBook for?

The answer is $9.95.

So another question you may have is: Will the price go any lower? The answer is NO. I will not increase the price but I have no intention of lowering it either. This price is set in stone. So if you have been waiting for the price to go down you have your answer.

So, forego a fancy latte for a day and invest in yourself, and your future. Is $10 really so much to ask for a product that can help you learn new software? A software product you can include and looks good on your resume? In my experience, and the professionals I work with, the answer is a resounding NO. Investing in yourself, and learning something new is always a good investment as it pays for itself many times over.

So download and evaluate the FREE excerpt, then come back and BUY the full version of the book. To BUY simply CLICK the big red button and you will be re-directed to the secure shopping cart:


Buy FrameMaker


In Conclusion

FrameMaker is a powerful but complex program. It is designed for advanced technical documentation and Adobe does not sell the program cheap. The problem is finding training sources to learn the program without spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on formal training and/or books. The books that exist cover "everything" Frame and for someone who is just learning the program this is overkill and can become extremely frustrating.

As a novice you want just the raw basics, how to create a document and everything that goes along with creating that document. You don't need structured content or fancy techniques, you just want to create and print a document. Enter FrameMaker Basic Training written by somebody who has been there and done that.

Dated, yes. Outdated, no. The basics are the basics and FrameMaker Basic Training teaches you the basics.


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