Sunday, July 1, 2007

Old Meets New

The iPhone User’s Guide contains lots of interesting information about the iPhone. But the most interesting thing, to me, is that the document was created on a Mac using Adobe FrameMaker 6. This version of FrameMaker was released in 2000 and ran under Mac OS 8 and 9. FrameMaker 7.0, the last version that ran on Macs, was released in 2002. Old Mac OS software can run under Mac OS X in Classic, but only on PowerPC-based Macs, the last of which was discontinued almost a year ago. Apple is apparently using some old software and hardware to document its newest product. I totally understand; FrameMaker 6 is a great piece of software, and there’s nothing like it for Mac OS X.

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I had a brief flirtation with SGI back in the early 2000s, and they were still producing thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of pages of technical documentation on Framemaker.

I really can't blame Apple for sticking with it. There are things Framemaker does for long-document publishing that nothing can touch these days. Don't get me wrong; I think the typesetting engine in InDesign is the greatest things since hot lead. But for managing books with lots of cross-references and figures and whatnot, it's just not there.

I wonder if anybody uses Framemaker to produce anything other than technical documentation though? I've never actually seen it used in any other context.

A friend works at Apple on their technical publications, and says that they use Frame for all of them.

Personally, I love Frame, enough so that I've got it running in Sheepshaver at home. InDesign just isn't the same.

David Magda

Does anyone know why it is still available for Solaris SPARC and not OS X (or even Linux for that matter)?

If it can run on one POSIX/X11 system it can probably be compiled for just about any other Unix-y system out there.

Would you want to run it on your Mac via X11?

Chris Ryland

The scuttlebutt is that Apple's been trying to wean themselves off FrameMaker, and that Pages is supposed to be the replacement, when it gets powerful enough. (It's already good enough for some of their documentation.)

Frame is still used for much more than just technical documents. It's still the tool of choice for product catalogs, government documents, consumer manuals, textbooks, etc. Basically any kind of long document, especially documents that need to be constructed from a large dataset (e.g. catalogs). It is a shame that there still isn't a good alternative to Frame.

Jeffrey W. Baker

Does Frame seriously run on X11R5? R6 came out in 1994!

I don't take the effort to get Adobe to port Framemaker to Mac OS X very seriously anymore myself, but someone here might want to know. There is a group in support of Framemaker on Mac OS X:

and the petition:

Oh, yeah, and this comparison of Framemaker 7 and InDesign 2:

I only used Framemaker once for a big book job we had where the customer said that's what they needed, and boy was it ever slick. Fantastic for the book industry, especially with stuff like ToC and glossaries/indicies. But the best part was that the client used the Windows version, we used the Mac, but everything was EXACTLY the same in both versions of the document, down to every little line break.

Framemaker is one of the 5 or 6 reasons I still keep my very old SGI O2 workstation around.

The other big ones are Showcase (still the best multimedia presentation software for any platform every) and the internal to Irix SoundEditor (which has admittedly been bypassed recently).

Rob In der Maur

I still have FrameMaker for NEXT, boy was it slick. Having said this it shouldn't be too much of a job of porting that version to Mac OS X given the fact that NEXT is more or less the predecessor of Mac OS X....

I'm with Nadyne. I installed SheepShaver just so I could run FrameMaker 6 on my new Mac Pro. I wish cursor handling was a bit better in SheepShaver; I have a hard time grabbing table cells to resize them. But other than that, it works quite well. I like InDesign okay, but there are just a few things that FM does better than anything else on the market. I can't imagine writing the 600 page computer manuals I used to write in FrameMaker in anything else.

As for porting FrameMaker for NeXT to Mac OS X, the last version for NeXT was 3.2. There would be an awful lot of work bringing that up to the current state of the art.

You could also run OS9 software using Sheepshaver for OS X.

Not that I'm suggesting Apple does that!

Jeff asks: "I wonder if anybody uses Framemaker to produce anything other than technical documentation though? I've never actually seen it used in any other context."

After working on uku-zillioin tech docs in the valley, I used FrameMaker to produce two complex but non-tech oriented books by authors Ching & Ching, entitled "Faces of Your Soul: Rituals in Art, Maskmaking, and Guided Imagery with Ancestors, Spirit Guides, and Totem Animals", and "Chi and Creativity: Vital Energy and Your Inner Artist". You can actually do some pretty aesthetic things with FM. Look inside the books at Amazon if you're curious.

I'd much prefer that Adobe port FrameMaker's unique functionality to InDesign (conditional text, cross references, MIF support, XML mode), and move their customer base over. I'd bet money that this option has been under discussion at Adobe for years.

Robert J. Slover

I taught my wife (a graphic designer) how to use Frame years ago (FM 3.2), and she uses it anytime she wants to typeset something over a page long while having really good control over how the text is laid out. This has included everything from cookbooks to resumes, and even the occasional letter.

Just a bit of a theory, but do you really believe that Classic won't run on Intel Macs or under Leopard? The argument that Intel is different than PPC is no good since if Classic requires PPC, that's already virtualized with Rosetta on Intel Macs. The argument of Leopard architecture not supporting it is perhaps more plausible, and would explain why PPC machines that could run it under Tiger can't under Leopard, but that doesn't explain Intel Macs with Rosetta running Tiger. I think there's a good chance it was merely a decision to retire Classic since it is an extra testing burden and also was used as an excuse by some software houses to not update for OS X. Certainly Apple could enable it for themselves if it were possible.

FrameMaker had a version that supported SGML which was the defacto markup language for technical documentation. It has since been superseded by its child, XML.

What about using latex? It's infinitely customizable and does a fantastic job on long documents. Of course it doesn't have GUI, but on the plus side it is free. (Worked incredibly well for a 180 page document I put together recently.)

Robert Scott

Possible fixes for the Sheepshaver cursor handling problem can be found here:

Michael Llaneza

Here's a beautiful thought. The pro version of Pages is Volumes; it's feature comparable with Framemaker and it's just a latex front end. How cool would that be ?

Why not use XSL-FO?

Webrumor suggests that FrameMaker 7 for MacOSX has support for 10.1 and 10.2, but not 10.3. Can someone confirm or correct this, please?


System Requirements:
# OS Required Apple MacOS 9.0, Apple MacOS 9.1, Apple MacOS 9.2, Apple MacOS X 10.1 (WILL NOT WORK ON OSX 10.3)
# Min RAM Size 128 MB
# Min Hard Drive Space 180 MB

I'm using a free/open-source alternative, which may appeal to the geeks amongst you.

Recently I've used DocBook as the XML document format for my documentation. The editor I use is XMLmind (free). The document is then processed using Apache FOP (free) to produce a PDF file, and can be customised using XSL stylesheets. The same XML file can also be processed using xsltproc (part of OS X 10.4) to produce HTML documents (single page or multipage) which can be shipped with a .css file to control formatting in the browser. The DocBook XSL stylesheets control the HTML and PDF formatting and are also free. A makefile is used to automate the creation of the output files.

DocBook supports TOC, indicies, glossary, figures, etc. so is worth checking out.

Semper Fi, Mac!


I have FrameMaker 7.0, and it runs swimmingly on my seven-year-old PowerPC PowerMac running OS X 10.3.9 (which I didn't upgrade to Tiger or Leopard because that machine doesn't have a DVD drive).

Anyway, I recently bought a new iMac, but I'm hanging on to the PowerMac simply because of its ability to run Classic programs such as FrameMaker. And FrameMaker runs fast in a meager 640MB of RAM, without breaking a sweat. FrameMaker is an amazing workhorse. I recently used it to write a 70,000-word novel. FrameMaker gobbled it up without complaint.

It's a shame Adobe abandoned FrameMaker -- largely, I suspect, because of a well-known Silicon Valley disease called NIH ("Not Invented Here"), which in this case refers to FrameMaker's pedigree of having been created by Frame Technology in the mid-1980s but bought by Adobe in 1995 for $300 million. From the get-go, because FrameMaker wasn't Adobe's creation, Adobe always treated their acquisition as a poor relative. That doomed it the minute Adobe acquired it.

~Semper Fi, Mac!

Another hint what's going on at Apple's technical documentation could be found in newer docs: "PDF-Author: XEP 4.9 build 20070115"... Perhaps they switched to some sort of XML-Tool like Oxygen/Docbench and now use XSLT/FO to get the PDFs and so on.

For me Pages is the most potential successor of Frame, but it currently lacks in holding the documents in a central repository. and to do real cross media publishing. It's much easier to do this with simple xml files.

Apparently it is no longer "created on a Mac using Adobe FrameMaker 6". It seems it is now created using "Adobe InDesign CS3 (5.0.3)".

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