Frame Maker

A long-document writing and publishing application geared toward technical, scientific, and educational publishing. Long the tool of choice for technical and science writers, though pure XML-based workflows are supplanting it.

Frame (as it is known), is geared towards separation of style and content -- you set up the (hopefully semantically meaningful) styles and one or more page types, and then write within that template.

(As opposed to PageMaker, Quark, InDesign?, etc., which are generally used for design-y documents such as marketing literature, where every page often has an individual look. Although you could do this with Frame if you really wanted, it would be painful.)

(Also unlike Word, which provides no way to enforce a stylesheet, and in fact makes it very, very easy to accidentally override a style.)

Originally developed by Frame Inc (first release was 1986, IIRC), later bought by Adobe.

As of 2004, Frame has not had any major upgrades or new features for many years. That last significant thing to happen (with Frame 7, I believe) is they awkwardly combined their absolutely horrific Frame+SGML product into the main product (you have to choose whether to edit in normal or SGML mode when you start up the program).

Frame is often combined in tech writing workflows with WebWorksPublisher? (which can output HTML, XML, JavaHelp, or anything else using a semi-powerful macro language), or RoboHelp? (which can output HTML, MicrosoftHtmlHelp?, or WinHelp?).

I believe Frame Inc. had a strong connection to the creation of SGML.

A document formatting program masquerading as a desktop publishing program. It is expensive, and most people don't really know what it does. Please say more about why it is mentioned so much more than say, QuarkXPress on this wiki.

Could be that more people writing on this wiki have used Frame than Quark. For instance, Frame is very good at handling mathematical content, so is often used for technical publications, which many Wiki authors have been involved with: it's as good an equation formatter as TeX, plus has quite a sophisticated symbolic calculator built in (this is one of the things many users of Frame don't know it does). I once worked at a company where almost every document that wasn't code, from the equation-packed user manuals for our product, through the analysis and design documents for it, to office memos about it, were produced with Frame. We could generate frame documents from scripts via MML (Maker Markup Language), and hyper-link from one Frame document to another. All the illustrations in the manual were drawn in Frame too, as were the Syntropy diagrams in the analysis and design docs. That was nice as Syntropy makes heavy use of Z-like notation, which Frame handles very well. We could have done all these things in Quark, but I doubt that Quark would have helped as much as Frame did. Frame has some kind of idea what an equation means, for instance, so can be a lot more intelligent about laying it out than a more presentation based tool like Quark. At least Quark wouldn't actively have hindered us, unlike certain other document formatting tools I could mention. -- KeithBraithwaite

I have used frame for may technical documents. I like it, and would much rather use it than word, for example. However, I must take exception to your claim that it is as good at equation formatting as TeX. This is ridiculous. Very few things are even comparable, and none of them are word processors. It may be that you have only compared simple expressions - in this case it may be ok. There is a reason that the vast majority of mathematical papers are still written in (La)TeX, and it isn't simple familiarity. Now granted, frame does a much better job than Quark, MicrosoftWord, or WordPerfect. But it isn't close to (La)TeX.

It may be that you have used both for more complex equation layouts than I have. Could you provide examples of mathematical content that TeX handles much better than Frame? Thanks. -- KeithBraithwaite

See also:

Adobe is giving away free FrameMaker 7 demo CDs. The demo works for 30 days and then quits. I asked for a CD in September 2002, and it arrived in a week or two, but I didn't get around to installing it until July 2003. In the meantime Adobe made the demo downloadable. The demo does not include Acrobat Distiller, but luckily for me I already had Acrobat 4 installed (the full version, which includes Distiller). I could use Acrobat 4 to produce PDFs, just not with the "Save as PDF" option, which requires Acrobat 5. Anyway, I liked Frame so much that I used it to write a 140-page manual (5.5 by 8.5 inch pages) for an implementation of ForthLanguage I was working on. Now my demo expires in 12 hours and I'm already suffering from withdrawal symptoms. (Can't buy it due to unemployment. That sucks.) -- AnonymousDonor

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