Post #3: Publish your FrameMaker content to mobile devices

Thursday, December 22 2011 @ 12:50 PM, By Amit Agarwal

Hello Framers,

Here is the third post in the series we are doing on FrameMaker to provide complete and accurate information to our user base.

 

Today’s blog post is on a topic which is very relevant in today’s world. We are living in an era where there is a device explosion happening around us. People are carrying multiple devices with them such as laptops, smartphones and tablets; and consuming a lot of content on these devices. This article from a recent issue of The Economist magazine captures this trend in detail (see especially the chart titled: “Growth of the gadget”). So, what is the implication of this trend for us as technical communicators? A direct implication is that we need to think about how to make our content available on mobile devices because our end users (many of whom are using these devices) will expect the content to be in available on these devices in addition to all the traditional channels.

Today, we will be showing you how you can publish your FrameMaker content to mobile devices. If you have your content in FrameMaker (it can be structured or unstructured content), now it is easy to publish it to the popular EPUB standard (more on the it below) if you have Technical Communication Suite (TCS) (version 3 & above) OR FrameMaker Server (version 10 & above). With these solutions, one can easily publish to the EPUB format from within FrameMaker interface or through automated publishing workflow. After the content has been published to EPUB, it can be transferred to mobile devices which have EPUB readers (most of the mobile devices today have EPUB readers built in to them e.g. iPad, Android based devices, Barnes and Noble Nook etc.)

Lets look at the EPUB standard and the workflow using the products.

About the EPUB standard

EPUB (an abbreviation for electronic publication) is a standard for digital publications and documents. It was first published in 2007 and is a format tailor-made for reading text over electronic devices. The founder and keeper of this standard is International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF). Latest issued specifications for the standard is EPUB 3.

The EPUB format has been adopted very quickly because of its ease to use and portability on multiple devices. It is mainly designed for reflowable content, i.e the text display is optimized for the particular display device being used. As a result, the same EPUB file could be used on various display devices with different sizes.  Today, there are various devices available with EPUB readers which include iPhone, Android devices, tablets, PCs. Furthermore, Adobe Digital Editions is one of the widely used EPUB readers in the market on laptops and desktops.

In short, EPUB is:

  • A free & open standard
  • Integrates well with the touch sensor
  • Has reflowable & resizable text (its not PDF:)
  • Has metadata embedded
  • Support for Inline raster / vector images
  • Has support for CSS styling
  • Has DRM support

How does publishing to EPUB work with FrameMaker?

FrameMaker (when used as part of Technical Communication Suite) can be used to publish an EPUB output easily. FrameMaker in turn uses Adobe Robohelp to produce the output. But, to the end user the publishing process is seamless and all the user needs to do is to invoke the publishing from the FrameMaker interface without the need for going to another product. The user simply needs to open the file in FrameMaker and generate ePub through the File -> Publish -> EPUB route.

See screenshots below for more details on how publishing works in TCS.

File -> Publish launches the dialog below:

The other optional fields for generating a customized EPUB output are:

  • RoboHelp Project: The .XPJ file of a project is used which serves as a template for the EPUB output.
  • ISF: The .ISF (Import Settings File) is used which contains the conversion settings from FrameMaker to RoboHelp
  • Master Page: Master Page (.HTT) file of a RoboHelp project can be used as a background page for the EPUB output.

Furthemore, one can also use FrameMaker Server to generate the EPUB file. FrameMaker server is our solution to do automated publishing to multiple formats and devices (to know more, read the detailed blog post on this topic). A user needs to select the EPUB output option to generate the EPUB file.

See screenshot below for more details on scheduling publishing with FrameMaker Server.

 

Note: For generating EPUB, 7-zip software would be required on the machine. 7-zip is a small archiver tool with high compression ratio. You can download the software for free from here

Samples

To showcase the EPUB publishing capabilities, we have published some sample FrameMaker documents to the EPUB format. Please download the .zip file and unzip the contents. In the folder, you will find the source FrameMaker files as well as the generated EPUB files. As you will see, the samples include a variety of FrameMaker content: DITAMap, a FrameMaker book, FrameMaker FDK10 reference guide and another guide template. For best viewing experience, download the EPUB files to your mobile device and use the EPUB reader to open the file (For instance, for Apple iPad, you will need to transfer these EPUB files using iTunes and view them in the iBooks App)

 

So, in summary, as we saw, it is quite easy to generate outputs for mobile devices from your FramMaker source. We hope that you found this information useful. Do give the EPUB publishing capabilities a try and let us know what you think.

 

Here is wishing you happy holidays and a happy new year 2012!

 

Regards,

Amit Agarwal -Senior Lead Software Quality Engineer, FrameMaker

Kapil Verma – Sr. Product Manager, FrameMaker and FrameMaker Server


COMMENTS

  • By Scott Abel - 7:07 PM on December 23, 2011  

    Hey guys. Great topic. While we are discussing how to create EPUB files, let’s stop for a moment to discuss how they work (or don’t) on mobile devices and smart phones. I’d like to work with you on testing the EPUB features out and seeing how they actually work. What works? What doesn’t? What needs to be rethought BEFORE converting to EPUB. I have lots of ideas (and some good examples of what likely will break and why). Let’s set up a time to chat soon.

    Scott

    • By Ankur Jain - 5:33 AM on December 27, 2011  

      Hi Scott,

      Thanks for your comment. I would love to have this discussion and get your thoughts and examples as well. I will be at the Intelligent Content Conference so we can have more detailed discussion when we meet in Palm Springs, but let’s plan to talk sometime in early January.

      Ankur

    • By kverma - 6:29 PM on January 5, 2012  

      Scott,

      thanks for your kind words. We certainly enjoyed working on this topic. I will definitely be keen to hear your feedback on optimizing current mobile publishing workflows. Let me know when you would like to chat.

      thanks,
      Kapil

  • By Scott Abel - 11:01 PM on January 2, 2012  

    Agreed. Looking forward to it. I also think you should book some time with Ann Rockley and Charles Cooper (authors of “eBooks 101: The Digital Content Strategy for Reaching Customers Anywhere,. Anytime, On Any Device” and co-producers of the Intelligent Content Conference). They would be excellent to show what you have done and to get feedback on how to do it better.

    • By Ankur Jain - 2:27 AM on January 3, 2012  

      Excellent. I look forward to discussing this with you, Ann and Charles in Palm Springs next month. It’s always great to receive feedback more so when it comes from power users.

  • By john sgammato - 3:45 PM on January 3, 2012  

    If I port my legacy content into EPUB format, what can I do about images? I currently use screen captures in almost every procedure. They are largely used for navigation and eye candy for printed manuals, but the reader can do without them.
    Is there a way to publish to EPUB but set RoboHelp to replace all images with a link? That way the reader might see Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, , Step 4, Step 5.
    I can do that with Mif2Go, but I want to use TCS3 (or 4, when the time comes).

    • By Amit - 7:27 AM on January 6, 2012  

      Hi John,

      From your legacy content ‘too’ you can easily bring the images into ePub format, provided the images are contained in an anchored frame. And further if you place hyperlinks on those image anchors they are preserved as hyperlinks on the images in the ePub format ‘too’ produced via TCS. So the image in the ePub becomes a clickable hyperlink.

      You may also download a TCS trial and check it out yourself if it works for your files: http://www.adobe.com/cfusion/tdrc/index.cfm?product=tcs (would need to create an Adobe id before the download)

  • By Chuck Martin - 10:15 PM on January 6, 2012  

    Unfortunately, this article is not strictly accurate. Merely having Adobe Technical Communication Suite is not enough. Where I work, that what we have–version 2.0 of it, which includes FM9 & RH8. Specifically, this version of FrameMaker has no {ublish command on the File menu.

    It’s an unfortunate tendency for product management and advocates to assume everyone has the latest version of their software. Certainly that what one hopes, as the latest versions in customers’ hands (a) provide them the latest and (hopefully) greatest features and functionality and (b) keep company revenue flowing. The reality of the world, however, is much different. The thing is, your primary audience for these products (technical writers, information designers, user assistance engineers, and the like) understand this concept when they develop many types of documentation for their product’s users. So the failure here to be necessarily specific indicates to me a more fundamental issue.

    A push-one-button-and-it’s-done notion is nice, but again, reality intrudes. Few FrameMaker documents are simple, with charts and tables, graphics, conditional text, and more. I’ve encountered many issues with graphics in eBooks, graphics that, when enlarged to be reasonably viewable, are so coarse as to be little more than mud. Unless the existing production process is not yet robust enough to deal with issues such as these, the omission of these issues is puzzling.

    Finally, to talk about only EPUB is strange. While EPUB is an open standard that can be read with just about any non-Kindle eReader, Amazon in currently the largest retailer of eBooks. either admit that you’re unwilling or unable to produce output for that market or include it as part of the conversation. (Or link to a similar article that focuses specifically on Kindle versions.)

    P.S. Why is archiving software “required” for generating an EPUB document? When I created my EPUB resume, I simply saved it as EPUB from Pages (after importing the original Word document). I was then able to import it into my iTunes library and sync it to my iPad. If you’re going to claim that something is “required,” you have to say _why_ it is required (and what function it has in the process).

    I think eBooks have tremendous potential in many areas of user assistance. “Traditional” user guides and online help perhaps less so than training materials and reference guides (and the social aspects of some eReaders add interesting possibilities), but not only is it important to learn how to produce eBooks with our development tools, it’s important that those development tools handle well many different types of information design issues so the eventual users/readers get a good experience.

    • By Ankur Jain - 7:35 AM on January 7, 2012  

      Hi Chuck,

      Thanks for your comment. I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts. Adobe Technical Communication Suite version 3 and above support ePub output. We shall clarify and add this to the post, as you are right in saying that not all the TCS versions support these capabilities. We plan to cover output to .mobi in a separate post, and will reference that article to this one once it goes live. Note that we also plan to do an eSeminar on publishing your content to Kindle Store and best practices for generating ePub output. Stay tuned for the eSeminar announcement on this topic. There are some nice articles on the RoboHelp DevNet page that you may find useful as well. Let me know if you need URLs or more detailed information.

      Thanks again,
      Ankur

  • By TH - 1:37 AM on February 13, 2012  

    Hi Ankur,

    We have FrameMaker 10 and RoboHelp 9. The Publish menu in FM 10 is there, but greyed out.

    Is that because we need the full Adobe Technical Communication Suite version 3, and not just FM 10 with RH9?

    • By Ankur Jain - 5:05 AM on February 13, 2012  

      Hi there,

      You need Adobe Technical Communication Suite 3.5 (or 3) to be able to use the Publish menu in FrameMaker 10. It is a Suite only workflow.

      Ankur

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