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I started supporting XML-oriented technical publications teams in the late 1990s. I've used nearly all the XML authoring tools out there, and I use several different ones on a regular basis every day for different purposes. Over the last month I've had the opportunity to spend some time with Adobe's TCS4 and FrameMaker 11. I'm not new to FrameMaker. The first version I ever used was 5.5 back in the year 2000 and I've used a number of other versions over the years.

With this latest release, FrameMaker 11 has made the leap to being a true XML authoring application.

In the new UI, there's an XML view with real-time validation, tree view and code view.  I'm a programmer by trade - a genuine computer scientist - so I come at publishing from the side of scripting, programming, and data structures. I want my XML pure and ASCII readable, and in FrameMaker 11, I've got it.

Whitespace handling is much better than previous versions as well. There's also access to the document contents via XPath and XSL. Whitespace handling can be the bane of a tools-person's existence when teams are using different XML editors causing havoc down the processing road, so to speak. It's one of the things you need to be aware of if you're going to let your team mix and match their tools.

I ran several tests with content created in one tool and then processed by the other. Standard DITA worked fine, even the keyref and conkeyref features of DITA 1.2.  Specializations - not as portable as I'd like, but if you're doing Standard Dita (and you should - we tell people only to specialize when necessary), you've got a nice option in FrameMaker 11.

Elements can be inserted by pressing the Enter key, now a pretty common mechanism I'm glad to see. There's also a nice smart copy/paste from Word and Excel. There's a lot of multi-media support - mp4, swf, flv, and u3d, as well as hotspot support for 3d graphics.

DITA isn't the only thing that's built-in. There's support for S1000D as long as you're working with S1000D XML. I tried a bit of it out, but not as much as I might have. Support for the doctypes are there, but I couldn't quite figure out how to get multiple version. Most of my customers are doing S1000D in SGML and not all of their projects use the same S1000D issue number.

Publishing has become really straight-forward for more than print output as well, as long as you've got the whole TCS4 suite. Publishing Server and RoboHelp support HTML5, EPub 3, Kindle, and Android Apps.  (I could test 3 out of 4 of these: I don't have Android). But, perhaps one of the nicest enhancements is the extraction of publication settings to a settings (INI) file. For support teams, this is a serious win because it makes publication consistency easy to maintain for more than single-user teams.  And isn't that part of the reason we all go to XML publishing?

In January, Single-Sourcing Solutions sponsored TC Camp. We had a morning class on the new features of Adobe's FrameMaker 11 and I had my first view of it since version 9. I have to say that my eyes were giant saucers as I watched Max Hoffmann walk through the new features. Getting a chance to play with it was fantastic. 

Key Concepts:

framemaker, techcomm tools

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