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RE: Facts about FM from FrameUsers conf? -- long reply

Thomas (and others)-

OK, I will try to try to provide as much context and as complete a summary as I can.  I am working from memory here, rather than any specific notes, and certainly appreciate others filling in details or correcting my misrecollections.

Information regarding a planned new version of FrameMaker was all provided by Karl Matthews, of Adobe Systems, Inc.  Karl is the Group Product Manager for FrameMaker, and his comments were in an early session of the conference, plus some additional information added during the final "wrap up" Q&A session.  To the best of my knowledge, no sessions were video or audio taped.  There were no explicit materials of any sort for FrameMaker beyond the currently released product.

Karl made it clear that his ground rules were that he could not discuss any specific information regarding platforms, operating systems, or dates, but would try to answer questions and provide information around those limitations.  In any interaction regarding the future of FrameMaker that I witnessed, he faithfully held to those boundaries.  If there were any additional off-the-record discussions, I was not privy to them.

As has been reported already (but to summarize):

- a new version of FrameMaker is in development, and we can expect
  to hear something from Adobe about this "in the near future."

  This apparently will be a point release (i.e., 7.1) rather than
  a full new version (e.g. 8.0).  My interpretation of the near
  future is before the end of the calendar year.

- Graphics handling will include import of native Illustrator and
  and Photoshop files, plus improved support for SVG graphics 
  including embedding fonts.

- Import Filters for Quark and PageMaker will be added

- Importing an XML file, then saving will default to XML format not
  FM's native binary file format (thus permitting Frame to act as a
  'super' XML editor)

  Given that the current (7.0) version requires valid (conforms to
  a DTD/EDD) files to save as XML, I don't see this changing in the
  7.X release.

- Lee Richardson is working with Adobe again in QA, but not explicitly
  on FrameMaker.  (Although, one would expect that he is among the
  most qualified people to put any new FM version through the ringer
  for QA testing.) 

Reading between the lines, here is my take on other topics people on these lists have wished addressed.  Note that I do not have any inside information, or special access behind the scenes to Adobe, or the FrameMaker team, or Karl.  Whatever follows are solely my impressions.

- Unicode support will remain as it is in the current version, which
  definitely limits Frame as a true XML environment

- Bug fixes and incremental improvements will be included, but no
  earth-shattering changes from what we know today.

Karl did mention that there are essentially two categories into which requests can be divided:

1: Things which require changes to the core code of FrameMaker and
   thus which only Adobe can address

2: Things that can be accomplished via the FDK (or FrameScript in
   most cases) which can be implemented by third-parties

The impression I had from this was that in cases which could fall into either category, Adobe was going to NOT change the code but rather let the external applications be the solution choice.  In the context of this discussion, Karl further stated that there were some things that were relatively higher priority than others that might not get adopted, while lower ranked items were included in a new release.  This is due to the situation where, if you are fixing the code for Ranked_Request_7, it may be in the same code block that involves Ranked_Request_53, so you may as well take care of both items while you're there.  But Ranked_Request_29 did not make the cut in terms of the trade-off between resources, time limits, and budget.

Karl did confirm the relative popularity of the three basic platforms for the existing (7.0) version, where Windows is the clear leader, then Solaris (my think that includes HP/UX and IBM AIX, as a general "Unix" category), and then Macintosh.  My belief is that the next release will be available for the same platforms and operating systems as version 7.0 is today: Windows 98/ME/NT 4/2000; Macintosh in Classic mode; and Solaris, HP-UX and IBM AIX.

As has already been pointed out, the new InDesign CS is greatly enhanced regarding its XML capabilities.  But there remain a number of features found in FrameMaker that are lacking in InDesign so that ID is _not_ a substitute for FM or really suited for long, technical publishing.  While some of these missing capabilities can be provided by third-party plug-ins or scripts, I agree that I would rather have them built-in to start with and not need to go outside.

If anything, I see a future where there will be round-trip transport between FM and ID, so that reuse of content between more technical and marketing focused material will exist, and each category will be prepared in the tool most suited for the required output formats and formatting.  XML may well become the underlying interchange format.  I would love to see the typesetting capabilities of InDesign incorporated into FrameMaker, but I think that the formatting engine is buried very deeply in the code and it will be an enormous undertaking to accomplish this task.

That's all I can recall or reconstruct.  Again, if there are things I have omitted, I welcome contributions and corrections.

-- Lester
 Lester C. Smalley              Email: lsmalley AT infocon DOT com
 Information Consultants, Inc.  Phone: 302-239-2942  FAX: 302-239-1712
 Yorklyn, DE  USA  19707          Web: http://www.infocon.com/

-----Original Message-----
From: Thomas Michanek <Thomas.Michanek@telia.com>
Sent: Monday, November 03, 2003 10:53
To: Free Framers
Cc: seanb_us@yahoo.com; lsmalley@infocon.com
Subject: Facts about FM from FrameUsers conf?

OK, we're starting to get reports from the FrameUsers conference
on what was said about the next release of FM from Adobe.
Many thanks to Lester Smalley and Sean Brierley for the first
summaries! But, I'd like to know more :-)

I'd like to know in what context(s) Adobe talked about this,
how official it was, who said it, etc. Did the Adobe people
say any more besides the presentations, "off the record"?
Were things videotaped or recorded/transcribed?
Were there handouts or slides on this topic?

I'm trying to avoid having to put together a puzzle of
individual reports and "rumours". Having a calm, collected
summary from experienced framers would help us all to fight
further spreading of rumours about FM's future.

Perhaps Lester and Sean and others could compile a more
complete summary/report/transcript when things have settled
down a bit? Perhaps including remarks in passing like:
"We were told that there were quite a few more Solaris
users of FrameMaker than Mac users of FrameMaker."

Thanks in advance,
Thomas Michanek, FrameMaker/UNIX/MIF expert
Technical Communicator, Uppsala, Sweden
http://go.to/framers/  (updated on Oct. 29)

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