Adobe FrameMaker

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Adobe FrameMaker (FM) is a word processor that is particularly suitable for writing large technical documents (thousands of pages) or books. FM works in two modes. As standard text processor and as structured authoring tool, i.e. as WYSIWYG XML editor.

FrameMaker used to be the only reliable (relatively) affordable structured editing tool, but there seems to be a trend to using WYSIWYM structure editors. E.g. O'Reilly produced most of their books with FrameMaker, but now are moving to a "pure" DocBook solution.


Positive things

FrameMaker is solid and has some excellent features:

  • Good multi-file support
  • Good HTML/XML export facilities and perfect PDF output. Therefore, FM is a good "single sourcing solution" (writing it once, delivering it in various formats for various supports.
  • Good support for cross-references (Microsoft Word does not)
  • It's solid (e.g. lists and style never reformat randomly as compared to Word
  • It prints like looks, there are no strange page breaks and such
  • Headers and footers can be created easily (a nightmare in Word 2003).
  • XML support, in particular for DITA
  • Figures and tables including captions work (e.g. captions stay with the figures and they can float to the top or the bottom). In Word 2003 they can't.
  • The drawing program is not outstanding, but at least it's solid.
  • Numbering works (at any level of nesting and chapter/section-based renumbering). In Word or Open-Office it does not.
Negative things

FrameMaker has been around for a long time. Daniel K. Schneider has been using it in the early nineties already. E.g. I remember the day before I had to turn in my 500 p. PhD theses. I just sent it to the printer and it printed as it should. Totally hassle free.

Since then, the product did not evolve very much. Adobe (after it bought the company) almost let this product die, but larger companies probably prevented that. Since Adobe started using it themselves (according to rumors) to write their own documentation, e.g. for CS3 things did improve a bit.

Compared to older versions of the nineties, FrameMaker 8 has:

  • multiple undo (until FM 7 this wasn't available !)
  • integrates XML (structured editing). Until FrameMaker 5 or 6, one had to buy an expensive SGML version to do so.

However, there is still impressive list of missing features:

  • No real time spelling and syntax correction
  • Lousy support for DocBook (the files look the same as 5 years ago ...)
  • No XSL-FO support, instead one has to use proprietary EDD formating commands and which makes round tripping difficult.
  • No citation/bibliography support. Third-party solutions exists, but are rather clumsy to use.
  • Integration of some FM features with an XML DTD (e.g. figures, crossreferences and such) is not obvious (very difficult in FM 7.2, not tested in FM 8 so far - Daniel K. Schneider)


Various filtering software:


(these need to verified !)

Introductions and overviews

At Adobe


As with most Adobe products, it is not obvious to find the right information on their website. Rather use the "help" menu in the application. Anyhow, the most useful documentation is in the "LiveDocs", e.g.:




FrameMaker and DocBook

The included DocBook in FM 8 is plain old.


Lists of lists