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
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!
Amit Agarwal -Senior Lead Software Quality Engineer, FrameMaker
Kapil Verma – Sr. Product Manager, FrameMaker and FrameMaker Server