I was first introduced to FrameMaker back in 1994. I took to it immediately as a much needed escape from Microsoft Word. As a small company Pilatus Britten-Norman couldn’t afford the investment in the full Interleaf system that we really wanted, so we had to make do. Our first adventures into electronic publishing were with the delightful Ventura Publisher. We used that for most of our aircraft maintenance and flight operations documents. Unfortunately some wrong turns by the Ventura’s owners effectively killed of that product, so we had to fall back on MS Word. I won’t say much more about that you all know why its the wrong tool for tech pubs!
Ah, FrameMaker, what a strange product that seemed at the time. It had its own quirky ways, but really helped to make a difference. We were more productive because we didn’t need to spend all of our time fighting the software. This was even better than Ventura. Time has proved that it was better than Interleaf too.
Now all of that preamble is long in the past, but here we are again with another new release of FrameMaker for 2017. As you expect it’s the heart of Adobe’s Technical Communication Suite 2017 release.
I’ll be doing a series of magazine article soon that will dive deep into TCS 2017. In the meantime, what’s so great about this suite of products?
FrameMaker 2017: grey is the new grey
Top of the list for me is of course FrameMaker 2017 and it’s business as usual. FrameMaker is still a great choice for complex tech docs and I personally wouldn’t want to use anything else. But what about the new features?
This new release brings yet another variation of Adobe’s OWL interface. Yes we’re back to monochrome icons. It seems colour icons that were reintroduced only a couple of versions ago have again been banished by the style police. If anything its even less helpful than the original FM9 scheme as these don’t even show any colour as you roll over them. Maybe you think that this is just trivia, but I know that I use icon colour to quickly locate a specific button. I work faster in FM 2015 than I do in this new release.
Of course my slightly reduced productivity will also be due to the massive changes to the menu arrangements. I have to say if this was my first sight of FrameMaker the menus would make perfect sense. Everything arranged with an undeniable logic. Gone is the ‘Special’ menu but we now have an ‘Insert menu’ – I won’t list all of the changes here. The problem is that these changes are difficult for an old ‘power-user’ like me with 20+ years of muscle memory to override!
If you are using a true high resolution monitor the support for 4k screens is very welcome and in some respects FrameMaker is now leading the field with its support. Fonts look wonderful when you cant see any jagged edges. Switching between monitors with different resolutions smoothly resizes FrameMaker to give the best results. You will notice some strange line spacing in the catalogs where the font seems too large for the line spacing, otherwise its all good.
Finally we can organise our projects within FrameMaker. Well overdue and quite well implemented for a first attempt. However it is really just a window onto your existing file system and the interaction between projects and active documents and books is non-existent. I look forward to future developments particularly for structured application development… I’ll go into more details in a future review.
I’m seeing some reduced performance in FrameMaker 2017 compared with the last few versions, a noticeable lag while it performs common tasks. I’ll report further on this with some real comparison figures in a future blog. Maybe it’s just because I’m using a pre-release build? Lets see what the final release delivers.
That’s all for now, no need for me to compile a complete list of new features, you can read that here: Adobe TCS Blog I’ll be back again soon with more about TCS 2017 including a brief look at RoboHelp 2017.