Speaking from my over one thousand hours of experience “optimizing” unstructured FrameMaker files for translation and localization, I can vouch for the following fact: FrameMaker 11’s ability to handle catalog styles more efficiently than FrameMaker 7.x and its ability search and locate format overrides can reduce some production preparation tasks by as much as 90%! This is particularly true if unstructured FrameMaker files involved are (a) ready to be translated into another language or (b) ready to be converted to XML, DITA or some other form of structured editing.
Document content needs to have as few inconsistencies as possible to achieve decent formatting after translation/localization. When converting unstructured FrameMaker documents, you want as few “exception” (e.g. unnecessary) paragraph or character tags as necessary before letting FrameMaker automatically construct your initial conversion table. (For more background on this process, view Tom Aldous’s excellent recorded eSeminar, “Unstructured To XML Workflow Series Part 3: Creating A FrameMaker Conversion Table – Part 2”.) Note: as with all recorded Tech Comm webinars, you will need a free Adobe account to view this eSeminar. You will be prompted to create one if you do not already have credentials. The URL link in the eSeminar title will not take you to a page that displays a description of the recording.
What catalog and format housekeeping tools does FrameMaker 7.x offer?
Very few. This is not a criticism of that stalwart release of FrameMaker, still used by so many users. Adobe has listened to its users over the past 7 to 10 years, and control over format overrides was always one of the top requests. So quite a bit of product development has taken place in recent years to give FrameMaker 11 a powerful set of built in tools to (a) manage catalogs and (b) locate and correct unwanted paragraph and character format overrides.
Basically, FrameMaker 7.x’s only indication that a paragraph style, character style or table style did not match the catalog was an asterisk appearing in front of the style name in the lower left corner of the document window. The screen capture below shows all catalogs revealed in a FrameMaker 7.2 document. Notice that there is no indication of which styles are currently in use, and which styles may be leftover, unnecessary format “artifacts.”
Improved catalog control in FrameMaker 11
The screen capture below shows the same document updated to FrameMaker 11. Notice that the catalog display is more logical with the addition of a “real” tables catalog to the far left. (In the previous screen capture, the FrameMaker 7.2 “catalog” was only visible via a pull-down menu from the Table Designer menu, used for modifying or designing table styles.)
Also notice in all three catalogs (paragraph, character and table), a check mark appears in front of any styles that are currently in use within the current document. As shown later in this blog, several options may be employed to change display in the catalog. The ability to tell “at a glance” which paragraphs are unused is a real timesaver when eliminating “dead” formats from templates or unstructured FrameMaker documents before conversion to structured DITA or XML.
This particular document was an actual customer file I worked on with FrameMaker 7.2 a few years ago in a project that required conversion from unstructured to structured. The client had FrameMaker files that were originally converted from MS Word documents (bringing in some “orphan” styles during the conversion process.) The unstructured FM 7.2 documents had also been edited by “many hands” from staff who were not as coordinated as may have been desired.
The screen capture below shows that each catalog has an optoin to show (a) only used formats, (b) only usued formats, (c) to display used formats first, or (d) a feature to “Delete all unused formats.” Perhaps one of the most asked for additions is the “Customized List” option, which enables FrameMaker 11 users to display only those paragraphs they wish, and also in the order they wish to view the styles in.
Getting rid of illogical style names in FrameMaker 11
Because FrameMaker 7.2 was only capable of display all styles in alphabetical order (not in order of importance,) many users resorted to putting a “z_” or “x_” in front of lesser used styles that they wished to appear at the bottom of the catalog. This of course, led to some rather illogical style names, and confusion for new staff adapting to in-house style naming conventions.
The screen capture of FrameMaker 11 below shows the effect of displaying only unused formats in the paragraph and character catalogs. (Notice that no check marks are present before any of the styles.)
In this particular document, there are a large number of unused and unnecessary character styles. The screen captures below shows the catalog options being used to first delete all unused format, and then the resulting, “trimmer” catalog of styles.
Incidentally, in FrameMaker 7.2, there is a “delete” function under catalog options, but it is performed one style at a time.
Locating and removing unwanted format overrides
Perhaps the biggest time and money saver covered in this blog is FrameMaker 11’s ability to search for paragraph overrides and character overrides. In other words, the search will highlight any portion of character level text that does not match a character tag or paragraph tag, and will also highlight paragraphs that do not match the catalog.
In many instances, the publisher may be able to tell at a glance that a paragraph has been overridden to start a new page or column. But in all too many cases, a paragraph has been shaped to have tighter line spacing, or fractional changes in point sizes in order to get “fat” paragraphs to stay on one page. As mentioned earlier, these types of overrides can wreak havoc with either language translation or with conversion of unstructured documents.
The screen capture below shows the result of searching for a Character Format Override. In this case, text has been highlighted which was changed to italic with Control-“i“ instead of a character tag.
The screen capture below shows an example of FrameMaker 11’s find Paragraph Format Override feature identifying a paragraph in which someone has clearly reduced line spacing. The paragraph can be corrected by simply reapplying the paragraph style from the catalog.
FrameMaker 11’s Object Style Catalog
FrameMaker 11 introduced a completely new level of catalog control that can globally update and control the behavior of graphic objects and anchored frames. In a simple example below, a “before” and “after” screen capture show how anchored frames that have an Object Style applied can globally change their position.
Notice the Object Style Catalog to the left of the workspace. The style “ELEPHANT” has been defined for certain anchored frames that are currently appearing below the insertion point.
In the “after” screen shot below, we have redefined the “ELEPHANT” Object Style to place anchored frames to run into paragraph text and position on the right hand side. Since the [Update All] button was pushed, all instances of anchored frames with the ELEPHANT Object Style have changed in one simple step. This new control over graphic objects can save countless hours in your production.
What’s the return on investment
The ability to locate and remove unwanted formats mentioned in this blog can save countless hours correcting or optimizing documents that may have “fallen into the wrong hands.” Sometimes when contractors are used on projects, staff with minimal knowledge of FrameMaker may “fake” their way through format edits, using the wrong tools (e.g. pull down format menus) instead of paragraph and character styles.
In a later blog, we will cover how FrameMaker 11’s ability to publish files in native XML format can completely eliminate the possibility of making any format overrides that are not built into the controlling structured application.
Have your own hands-on with FrameMaker 11 and decide how you can use it
Adobe Technical Communication Suite 4 includes FrameMaker 11, which is an excellent authoring solution and also a versatile structured editor for DITA/XML. The possibilities with these new tools are as limitless as the profiles of our existing and potential customers. To discover how you can use FrameMaker, download a trial copy of FrameMaker 11 today. After having your own hands-on, you may decide in favor of the best bargain of all, obtaining a cloud subscription to the entire Tech Comm Suite 4, which includes RoboHelp 10, Captivate 6 and other products in addition to FrameMaker 11.