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RE: Frame and its UI

Mon cher monsier le Despot:

I very much *enjoyed* your lengthy commentary!

>Well, from the first try, FrameMaker has become our main tool from text
>processing to layout, and now to e-publishing. All our books are made with
>our catalogues are based on MIF exports from a FileMaker database, and we 
>even use FM for some book covers and ads. As our visual style is quite
>we have no need for Illustrator or FreeHand, and use QuarkXpress for cover 
>jobs mainly because French printers are reluctant to unusual software. 

Do they accommodate printing from PDF files yet? Supplying PDF files (with
all fonts and colors embedded) is rapidly becoming the routine method for
keeping print production people and their print vendors sane, come
manufacturing time.

>typography is less subtle, especially for hyphenation, but who notices it ?

I do, for one, and learned to use the (Mac interface) shortcut
command-hyphen to insert a soft hyphen after the first character of a word
in order to suppress its folies des hyphens in ANY language after my first
occasion of preparing the final Frame files received from a translation
house for conversion to PDF for a corporate intranet posting. 

>I do not understand some people's complaints about "learning curves" and 
>other paedagogical abstractions. I am discovering something new in FM every

>week, but people commited to standard layout jobs found it easier and less 
>stressing to prepare books with FM than with that famous and heavy text 
>processor. The predictability of FM's behaviour and the strong "railing" of
>template-based system allowed us to train and set to work people without
>DTP experience in a few days.

Unfortunately, many Frame adopters do not understand the point of templates.
And anyone that tries to adopt Frame without them is almost inevitably
doomed to fail. I've seen multiple instances of both in different workgroups
within the same company. The template is the key.

>Here we come to the point. To me, FrameMaker's outdated UI seems rather 
>an advantage. It doesn't spend memory on visual effects, doesn't cover your

>screen with boxes, and almost allows you to leave your mouse aside. Thus,
>still effectively run FM 5.5.3 on a six year old 7100/80 Mhz PowerMac. Try
>do the same with Office 2000... And try to make a book with Office 2000...

I agree with you about the stability and ongoing compatibility of Frame/Mac
and the underlying Mac OSes. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact
that FrameMaker on *any* Windows OS is running on its third or fourth (if
you count NeXT OS) major port across operating systems. 

No one expects a bear to dance well...the wonder is that it dances at all.

>Of course, when you shift to a Graphite G4 with a Studio Display, MacOS 9 
>and other related software, FM looks like some old military truck parked in

>front of the Montreux Palace Hotel. To this I'd remark that our firm's vans
>not built for comfort, but for efficiency.

And I still take my Frame indexing work HOME to my Mac for a 30% speed boost
courtesy of the Mac OS/Frame UI keyboard shortcuts. Alt-key shortcuts may
work for the long-time Windows user, but the sequence of non-mnemonic stuff
is as bad as a Windows UI user complained in the last digest. Unfortunately
for the Alt-key "shortcut" approach, FrameMaker incorporates so much
functionality that the first-letter-of-a-menu-item doesn't work well even in
an English language interface. If they ported the Mac suite of (for
instance) multi-key shortcuts from the Graphics menu, which are simultaneous
instead of sequential, one could (a) use control-alt-shift to do tasks like
"S cale" or 
"A lign" or "D istribute" or "R eshape" and (b) much more easily move from
one Frame UI to another (as many contractors and home-Mac-authors do). The
total absence of platform-styled keyboard shortcuts for such actions as
Special/Anchored Frames, Variables,  and Markers in the Windows/Frame UI
drives me nuts. Especially at indexing time.

(I don't doubt that the conflicting demands of the multiple interfaces also
drive the FrameMaker engineers nuts.)

>There is something deeper. FrameMaker's inner discipline has obviously 
>something to do with the mental structure of its users. People working with

>FM are more concerned with the contents of their work than, say, XPress or 
>InDesign users. FM forces you to think and organise your job -- because it 
>hates overrides --, while other layout software requires mostly manual,
>to-page work. For similar outputs, you use quite different brain skills.

Yes, there certainly is. Unfortunately, publishers in this country, even
technical publishers (such as John Wiley & Son) who routinely publish work
by authors who WRITE in FrameMaker (Joanne Hackos for one), do not accept
FrameMaker electronic input. They're still in the dark ages when it comes to
electronic publishing on any platform. Consequently, they don't TRUST
FrameMaker's long-tested automated cross-references but insist on eyeball
editing each and every one after an update to Frame-exported text. Truth.
And this market is one that's been overlooked in some fashion (by Adobe or
Frame Tech before it or both). But it's one that could benefit massively
from Frame adoption. 

So what happens? Small publishers with a clue are going to make dogmeat of
the biggies, with e-publishing and just-in-time printing from whichever
software they choose.  And Frame's well up on the short list of things to

>Once I wondered why such useful and clever software was ignored in our 
>business as well as in the whole Macintosh press, and so mistreated by its 
>owner Adobe. Now things are clearer. The whole small-computer world is 
>getting devoted to heavy tasks : gaming, fun, and multimedia futility.
>and not words, are becoming the main communication items. Hardware 
>becomes outdated as soon as you put it on your desktop. Software gets
>and clumsier at every new version, in order to meet often imaginary new 

>But the needs of the people really using their computer as a tool are so
>smaller, they increase so slower than the needs of those who see it as a
>or as a home divinity, that they are definitely not an interesting

"a home divinity" ... may I quote you on that?  (giggle)

>FrameMaker has serious and irritating lacks -- those stupid wandering 
>footnotes, for example --, but rethinking it would probably cost more than
>the Framers community seems worth to the marketing gurus.

>I apologise again, not only for the language of this posting, but also for

Actually, it's really nice to hear from the far-flung Frame users. I wish I
could think I'd do 10% as well in any attempt at le francais, or Deutsche.
(I don't even have the keyboard commands memorizes for typing cedillas.)

>Slobodan Despot, <despot@bluewin.ch>
>Foreign Editor

A votre servis,
Deborah Snavely, Senior Technical Writer, Aurigin Systems, Inc.

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