Part (2) Reasons to upgrade from FM 7.x to FM 11: Workspaces and a Friendlier UI

DITAFrameMakerTechnical Communication SuiteUncategorizedXML

One of the most compelling reasons to upgrade to FrameMaker 11 is the redesigned User Interface (UI) which allows “named” workspaces that “remember” placement of menus, etc. Most significantly, nearly any document or menu may be docked, allowed to float, or “dragged” out of the workspace (document window.)

More room to breathe

Once you have upgraded to FrameMaker 11 and become used to the freedom of placing frequently used menus and catalogs on a second monitor, it is quite difficult to “go back” to using FrameMaker 7.2 from 2005, which confined all activity to the “document window.” Floating menus, books or documents in FrameMaker 11 may also be collapsed to a horizontal bar, revealing more document content; this is a real plus when working on a smaller screen, like a laptop or netbook.

The two labeled screen captures below show a stark contrast between the document window of FrameMaker 7.2 and a customized workspace in FrameMaker 11.

A typical FrameMaker 7.2 document window for unstructured content:

FM 7 desktop all windows


 FrameMaker 11 workspace for the same content shown above.  The document and menu to the left are floating outside of the FrameMaker workspace. The black background is the windows desktop.

01 FM11 workspace w docs

A simple example of ROI with FM11’s user interface

If you examine the screen captures above and their labels closely, notice the “” document at the bottom of the screen in the first FM7 screen capture. This is a manually generated “list of references” that will display the paths to all referenced graphics in a document. It takes seven mouse clicks, or about ten seconds to create or update this document. Unfortunately, you cannot “refresh” the document, and it gives no indication of which referenced, external graphics might be “broken”.

Look closely at the “insets” pod at the bottom of the screen capture for FrameMaker 11 above. This dynamic window requires one click to refresh, and it can (a) display all imported graphics for all open documents, (b) both text insets as well as referenced graphics or (c) only broken referenced graphics. This constant window into previously hidden internal document information can save countless hours of generated lists, multiple searches, etc. employed in FrameMaker 7.2 to achieve the same results.

Note: broken referenced graphics or unresolved cross references will have a red “x”in front of them in the pod. If you look at the path name for the last graphic displayed in the pod in the FM11 screen capture above, you will notice that the pathname is much shorter. Although this is a “valid” referenced graphic, you have an instant visual cue that this graphic may have been imported from the wrong source folder.  Speaking from personal experience, this one feature saved me a substantial amount of time during my corrective, post-translation editing activities while on duty in my previous job with a translation agency.

Freedom to place content or menus where they serve you best

In FrameMaker 11, documents or menus/dialogs may be arranged in the several ways;

  • Documents may “float” and be stacked over one another
  • Documents may be “docked” and appear as “tabs” at the top of the screen for easy access
  • A “floating” document or menu may be dragged outside of the workspace (document window in FrameMaker 7.2 terms) and placed on any available screen space, even into an external monitor
  • Currently used menus may be “stacked” into a column on right or left side of screen, displaying full width of menu display
  • A “stack” of full width menus on the right hand side may be resized horizontally to create a stack of icons instead of fully displayed menus. In this mode, clicking on any icon will make the menu project horizontally on the screen. See the screen capture below for an example.

FM 11 menus docked, full width

FM 11 menus, docked as “labels”

FM 11 menus, docked as “icons” with marker exposed

 02 Full menus  03 menus as labels  04 menus as icon


One of the beauties of the friendlier FM 1 UI, is that users can modify their workspaces differently as they adapt to advanced features. (a) Some users new to FrameMaker may prefer the view in the left hand column above, (b) users with intermediate skills may prefer the full labels displayed in “collapsed” mode in the middle column, (c) advanced users who become accustomed to frequently used commands and menus may prefer the “icon” view displayed above in the right-hand column.

Different workspaces for different users and workflows

FrameMaker 11 comes with several, well-designed workspaces that will fit the needs of most users. However, you can customize the experience for your team by pre-configuring workspaces for specific tasks. All you need to do is arrange the necessary menus in an appropriate fashion and “name” the workspace.

How to restore workspaces to their default values

Sometimes users new to FrameMaker will invoke a variety of unrelated commands from pull-down menus. This will cause new menus or icons to appear in the stack on the right-hand side of the screen. When you are new to FrameMaker 11, you may reach a point where this appears to go out of control.

To restore your default or custom workspace to its original settings, simply pull down the menu under the workspace name (shown to the right) and select “Reset Workspace.” This will eliminate all recently added, unwanted menus and simplify your workspace to its original state.

Why it can be difficult to “go back” to FrameMaker 7.2

Once you start using just a few of the major improvements in the current user interface, you will probably find it challenging to work with the older versions again. Some veteran FrameMaker 7.x users have become accustomed to workflows with third party tools or a string of extra workarounds to compensate for many of the shortcomings relative to FrameMaker 11. However, if those FrameMaker 7.2 documents go into translation and localization, someone in a translation agency will be charging for every extra minute required to accomplish a multi-step task in FrameMaker 7.2 that may only take one click in FrameMaker 11.

DITA, FrameMaker, Technical Communication Suite, Uncategorized, XML

Posted on 01-21-2013


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