Structured/XML Authoring Post #1: Introducing multi-view XML authoring environment in FrameMaker 11

Friday, September 14 2012 @ 10:51 AM, By kverma

Hello Framers,

Hope you are well and you got a chance to give the new version of FrameMaker 11 and FrameMaker Publishing Server 11 a try.  In case you want to learn what’s new in this release, see my detailed blog post from earlier here. Also, I wanted to let you know that you can test drive FrameMaker 11 in your browser, without needing to install any software. Please visit our trial page to do this.

Today, I am happy to announce that in the coming weeks and months, we will be running two simultaneous blog series to provide more information on new features in FrameMaker 11. These two blog series will discuss structured/XML and unstructured features separately. This is because we realize that for many of you, your interest likely will be in one of the two areas depending on your documentation workflows and future requirements. So, we hope that with these two separate blog series, you will be able to more easily find the information that is relevant to you . Maxwell Hoffman and myself will be running these series. So, stay tuned for more posts in the future!

Now, on to today’s blog post, which will be the first in the structured/XML series. In this post, I would like to go over one of the key new functionality in this release and that is the new multi-view XML authoring environment.  In the last post, I talked about how many organizations are moving to structured authoring. Some of the main drivers of the business case include content re-use (which drives lower localization and content production costs), consistency in documents, separation of content from formatting, and need to seamlessly exchange information etc. Some of the industry surveys tell us that an increasing number of organizations are adopting structured authoring. From the attached graphic (click to see a larger version), you can see that the number of respondents who reported that they are already doing structured authoring, almost doubled from 15% in 2008 to ~30% in 2009, and then jumped to 42% in 2011.

To respond to this key trend, we have focused on improving structured/XML authoring support in this release. Now, in FrameMaker 11, you will be able to choose among 3 views when authoring XML content – WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get), Author view and XML code view. These 3 views have been designed with different user persona in mind, with functionality tailored to the needs of these various persona. For example,

  • XML code view may be used by power users/developers well versed in XML technology, who need to look at the “raw” XML source to debug issues etc.
  • Author view may be used by technical writers who need to focus only on content, and not on its formatting and layout.
  • Lastly, WYSIWYG view may be used by those who are responsible for publishing or template design.

All the three views are available in the product out-of-the-box and a user would be able to seamlessly switch from one view to the other without having to switch to another application or modes with FrameMaker. Furthermore, any of the views can be hidden for a particular user (if needed) . Read on to learn more about these views.

 

XML Code view

This view lets you work directly with XML source natively in FrameMaker. You will be able to create or modify XML files, work with elements and attributes and create valid XML content as per the rules in the DTD. It is as simple as a click of a button! In XML code view, you will have access to a host of functionality, which you would expect in a world class XML editor.

Auto Suggest

As you enter elements and attributes in XML code view, FrameMaker will prompt you with suggestions via a pop-up menu based on the position of the cursor in the overall XML structure. So, in other words, you will see a different list of elements at different places in the XML structure. Choosing from available elements and attributes increases both speed and accuracy of authoring, and will help you in creating valid XML content.

Run-time validation

Code view comes with run-time validation. In other words, FrameMaker will validate your XML content (as per the specified DTD) as you type! FrameMaker displays “squiggles” to indicate invalid code in the view. Hover over squiggles to get tool tips with validation messages, or use the Errors panel to view all validation errors and jump to the invalid structure. As soon as you correct errors, FrameMaker clears the highlight and the error in the panel. Along with highlighting invalid code, XML View also shows element hierarchy in a tool tip any time you hover over an element.

Auto-insert closing tags

When entering structure into the new XML code view, typing a closing bracket (>) for the opening tag automatically inserts the closing tag for your element, thereby speeding up content creation.

Tree view

Just like the Structure View panel, there is a tree view in the code view and it provides a graphical representation of your content, speeding navigation to specific content, understanding the overall XML structure and looking at content and attribute values.

Pretty printing

Pretty Printing color codes and indents structure of the XML, and enhances the readability of the XML content.

Other features

Line numbers:  These can help you locate specific pieces of XML code even faster. This makes tracking of XML parsing errors, editing and reviewing content more efficient. You can jump to specific line number and column by specifying those values in the text box at the bottom. And yes, display of line numbers is configurable through Edit>preferences

Collapsible tags: Looking at code can be a chore, but FrameMaker 11 gives you a few features to wrangle your code into submission. One easy way to pare down the amount of content you see in XML code view is by collapsing parts of the code that are unrelated to your current task.

Customize the look and feel: You have access to a variety of options under Edit > Preferences and XML tab to control the look and feel of your code view.

Xpath and XSLT support: More on this in a future blog post

See the video below to learn more about working in XML code view

 

Author view

In addition to XML code view, we are also introducing a new and simplified XML Author View, which provides a stripped down environment, suitable for XML authoring. With this view, the authors need not worry about where the page breaks are or how the document is going to look when it is published. The focus here is pure content creation that is valid as per the DTD rules. Hence, this view doesn’t have any formatting and page related constructs. See the list below for some of the features of Author View:

  • No set page width or page breaks
  • No header information. All footnotes consolidated at the end of the document
  • Single column only, side heads are turned off
  • Element tags can be displayed
  • Simplified menus and workspaces
  • Formatting controls are disabled, and the entire Format menu is hidden

Author View keeps the focus on the content, while giving an intuitive look to the information. It guides the author toward proper structure while eliminating inline formatting (like applying Bold and Italic) that might be lost in a structured workflow.

Furthermore, authoring is rapid in author view with new functionality designed to make the process of working with elements and attributes faster, with little or no mouse movement. Two such features are Smart Insert and inline attribute editor.

Smart insert

With this feature, you will be able to use keyboard shortcuts to bring up element catalog at your insertion point. The catalog also support typeahead, which allows you to jump to a specific element  quickly, by typing the first few characters. Lastly, you can use arrow keys to insert several elements together nested in the hierarchy.

 

Here are the keyboard shortcuts to be used with Smart Insert.

  • Insert element: CTRL-1
  • Wrap element: CTRL-2
  • Change element: CTRL-3

 

 

 

 

Inline attribute editor

Editing attributes while authoring content has been made easier in FrameMaker 11. When viewing either the WYSIWYG or Authoring View, you can use a keyboard shortcut (ESC-i-a-e) that brings up the attribute editor at your insertion point, right where you need it. Now you can enter attribute values or modify existing ones. Press ESC key to make the attribute editor go away. Another option is to turn on Element Boundaries (as Tags), press CTRL key and then hover on a tag to bring up the inline attribute editor.
See the video below to learn about Author view

WYSIWYG view

This is the legacy view of FrameMaker that you all are used to. Just like before, you can use this view for authoring XML and unstructured content. This view presents a true representation of how the document is going to look when it is published to PDF and is a key differentiator of FrameMaker compared to other XML tools. This view is very useful for those users who are involved with publishing of documents and template design. Lastly, similar to the Author view, this view also has the smart insert and inline attribute editor functionality.

 

The goal of providing these multiple views is to serve the varying needs of our different users. We hope that you will find the new multi-view environment useful and it will make you more productive in your activities. For more information on our products, please refer to the wonderful “Product-opedia” (hope you like the term :)) page created by our marketing team.

Lastly, please visit our page to see a consolidated list of FrameMaker 11 reviews. See what the industry experts are saying about the multi-view XML authoring environement and other new features in this release!!

Until the next post then….

 

Best Regards,

Kapil Verma

Sr. Product Manager, FrameMaker and FrameMaker Publishing Server

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