Should you upgrade to FrameMaker 2022?
Yes! Yes, you should upgrade to FrameMaker 2022, because it is reliable and you do need the latest revisions. FrameMaker relies on your operating system, other programs and other file formats and in order to make things work, you need to keep up with the times. And on a more personal level - you need to keep your resume up to date.
... and here comes the actual Adobe FrameMaker 2022 review!
Adobe shows great caution when it comes to updating and modernizing
one of its oldest products, FrameMaker, which was purchased by Adobe sometimes in 1994 and has undergone several transformations since then has been cautiously and conservatively updated and maintained ever since. The user base is - to say the least - conservative and easily disgruntled. Nevertheless the product has managed to keep its soul and still be a superefficient, versatile and lightening fast tool for long documents.
New features in FrameMaker 2022
We all love new features. For those of us who spend the major part of our days working with one specific program, the introduction of new features can be unnerving. "What have they broken now?!" is usually the thinking when a new release comes up. But usually times goes by and we get used to the new stuff, and next time around... "What have they broken now?!" FrameMaker has become an application which will recieve "trickling" updates. Just like the apps in the Creative Suite, minor updates may arrive with the larger update number. So far there have been two releases with FrameMaker 2022, with the September release as the latest. We are taking a look at - some - of the new features.
New Welcome Screen
The Welcome Screen has gotten a major overhaul with new icons and a focus on FrameMakers structured capabilities and the options to log into a remote repository. One may interpret this novel look as a hint that this is the direction Adobe is taking with FrameMaker. It is to become be integrated with Adobe Experience Manager or Sharepoint. Which makes good sense because a big part of the user base are working with LOTS of documents and LOTS of localizations.
Last Line Right Indent
"Last Line Right Indent" DOES sound afully specific, and it is! It is a formatting feature which can be applied to paragraph styles which will allow the user to create a general right indent on a paragraph style AND have a special right indent value on the last line. This feature is super useful in for instance TOC's like this. While I intially did not think much of this new feature, which has been a standard in InDesign in many years, I have actually realized that it is kind of nice. Most FrameMaker jobs are about long documents with generated files like TOC's and Indexes and I can save quite a lot of time if I can avoid having to fix line breaks in these lists which are being over written each time I regenerate.
Improved graphics objects
FrameMaker has built-in graphics tools allowing the user to draw circles, polygons etc. These are old tools and they have problems rendering quite as smooth a one would expect of todays applications. Rendering of these objects are improved and now they will look better when you are creating pdf's.
Book variable. FM2022 comes with a new book variable, which will allow you to have a counter which which counts the total number of pages in a book. Making it possible to have a page numbering like this "page 5 of 122" where 122 is the total number of pages in the book, even if the pages are distributed over more chapters.
FrameMaker has a wide array of variables - small pieces of code which will help you display information like chapter numbers, running headers and footers etc. Variables are smart, but it can be difficult to figure out how and where they are used. This is why Adobe has introduced a view option which will allow the user to highlight in a colour all variables in a document. The feature has for unknown and illogical reasons been stored in the preferences dialog, rather than under View along with "Rulers", "Borders", "Text Symbols" etc.
As can be seen above, the two running headers have been highlighted with a "Light Salmon" color, indicating that these are variables.
Fresh and new templates
For the first time in a great number of years, FrameMaker also comes with new creative content. Buried in the templates section, one can find two new templates, the "Ship Guide" and the "Modern Energy". Two simple templates with a focus on building colourful user instructions. These templates are not meant for building long and complex documents. They are meant to provide design inspiration. And since we are the ones who have designed these template for Adobe, we do kind of like them :-)
|The "Modern Energy" template||The "Ship Guide" template|
Faster PDF publishing of DITA content
Adobe has been pushing FrameMakers DITA capabilities for a number of years now. Probably rightly so. While FrameMaker is a great and fast dtp publishing tool when running as an unstructured application, it it never going to be able to to compete with InDesign when it comes to typography, colours, imagehandling etc. Structured content is another matter and FrameMaker can by the click of a button be turned into a structured editor and work with xml based content. XML content consisting of topics comes with no formatting.
Formatting like font settings, colours etc. needs to be added as a stylesheet. I FrameMaker this process is done using and EDD, but FrameMaker adds an extra layer of sophistication. When the book is written and collected as a number of topics, it can be published in a scripting like process, which will transform the xml content into FrameMaker files in a traditional book structure. This feature has been improved and now works even smoother and is easier to customize. And easy customization is todays word, because this is where other xml publishing system fails.
The bad stuff.
My main gripe (and worry tbh) with FrameMaker updates in the later years is about the quality of the updates. Three examples from the last two upgrades:
- The update to 2020 came with an option to right click and "Scale image proportionally". When you import an image into an anchored frame, it will sometimes be too big or small and you will scale it by dragging the scaling handles or using a numerical scaling in the Object Properties. Sometimes you will end up with an image which, proportionally to the original image, is wider or higher than it should be. So we want to scale it to the anchored frame using the original proportions of the image. Right click "Scale image proportionally"!
I believe everybody using that command would assume FrameMaker would pick up the original proportions of the image and would reset the proportions while scaling it to the graphics frame. Not so. FrameMaker merely scales the skewed image to the anchored frame, and makes the entire feature meaningless. InDesign has a similar feature, but in InDesign it works as expected. "Resize proportionally" will resize the image to original proportions of the image. The feature only works properly if the imported picture already has the right proportions.
- Last Line Right Indent is a really neat - and new - feature, as described above. But why is it not possible to make a right indent on the last line which exceeds the general right indent? Again – this works fine in InDesign.
- The Publish Dialogue is at the very heart of FrameMakers claim to being a single source editor. But it seems oddly curated. Trying to publish to an App will take you on bewildering journey into uncharted terrain which mostly resembles the nineties when compiling a Help file had to be done using a DOS prompt. Publishing to Kindle is equally disorienting. Amazon has given up on the Mobi file format and is using Epub now. The script recommended in FrameMaker was also abandoned by Amazon. It's a relic and I have not even once made it work properly.
So while these three features are neat and work – "almost finished features" IS a phrasing that comes to my mind.