Why Adobe FrameMaker Sucks – A Slight Rant

Ok, let’s start this product comparison between Microsoft Word (in the red corner) and Adobe FrameMaker (in the blue corner). Before we get into the actual review, I’d like to share how I first encountered FrameMaker and, more importantly, why its roots in an obscure DTP package are the reason why it is the strange beast we love and hate.

Microsoft Word v Adobe FrameMaker

Just to let you know. In this series of articles, we will compare Microsoft Word and Adobe FrameMaker by examining the following key areas:

  • Ability To Create Long Documents
  • Ability To Create Short Documents
  • Printing and Type
  • Cross-Platform Capabilities
  • Importing Graphics
  • Indexing
  • Web features

And if we have time, Word’s Nice and Not So Nice Features.

Do you remember PageMaker?

I’ve used FrameMaker for more than ten years. Actually, I started with PageMaker, which was then owned by Aldus (gone, I assume) and later bought out by Adobe.

The user interface in FrameMaker owes a lot to PageMaker, for better and for worse.

PageMaker was a DTP tool. It was designed to let you lay out pages and make them flow across sections. Once you get the hang of it, it makes sense. But at the time, it seemed a bit bonkers.

The problem for me is that FrameMaker inherited some of the thinking behind FrameMaker and has never really got past it.

Give me an example?

Ok, when you open FrameMaker, the body you write in is aligned to the left.

You can drag down the menu bars or make them float on the right hand of the page. If you want. The thing is the page should be centered.

Like it is in Microsoft Word.

Because, that’s how the rest of the world like to write documents.

Expect in Adobe FrameMaker…

From PageMaker to FrameMaker

If you can get your hands on PageMaker, all the mysteries of FrameMaker begin to make sense. But, it shouldn’t be like that.

A tool for Technical Writers should be designed for Technical Writers.

What we have is something designed for desktop publishers (dtp) that has been bent out of shape for Technical Writers.

Which is why FrameMaker is so counter-intuitive. Technical Writers tell you about its steep learning curve.

Why?

This is a tool for writing documents. Ok, ‘authoring technical publications’…

It shouldn’t be so difficult.

Don’t believe me?

If you were giving a budget to design the best piece of Technical Writing software, would it end up looking like FrameMaker?

No.

It would be more like Microsoft Word (preferably 2003!) with a bit more stability.

That’s what I think.

How about you?

Download these templates to start

Acceptance Test Plan

Contingency Plan

Software Development Templates

Acquisition Plan

Conversion Plan

Software Requirements Specification

Action Plan

Cost Benefit Analysis

Software Testing

API Documentation

Database Design

Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)

Audience Analysis

Datasheet

Statement of Work

Availability Plan

Deployment Plan

System Administration Guide

Bill of Materials

Design Document

System Boundary

Business Case

Disaster Recovery Plan

System Design Document

Business Continuity

Disposition Plan

System Specifications

Business Plan

Documentation Plan

Technical Writing Templates

Business Process

Employee Handbook

Test Plan

Business Requirements

Error Message Guide

Training Plan

Business Rules

Expression of Interest

Transition Plan

Capacity Plan

Fact Sheet

Troubleshooting Guide

Case Study

Feasibility Study

Use Case

Change Management Plan

Functional Requirements

User Guide

Communication Plan

Grant Proposal

Verification and Validation Plan

Concept of Operations

Implementation Plan

White Papers

Concept Proposal

Installation Plan

Work Instructions

Configuration Management Plan

Interface Control Document

Software Development Templates

Acceptance Test Plan

Maintenance Plan

Software Requirements Specification

Acquisition Plan

Market Research

Software Testing

Action Plan

Marketing Plan

Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)

API Documentation

Needs Statement

Statement of Work

Audience Analysis

Operations Guide

System Administration Guide

Availability Plan

Policy Manual

System Boundary

Bill of Materials

Project Plan

System Design Document

Business Case

Proposal Manager Templates

System Specifications

Business Continuity

Proposal Template

Technical Writing Templates

Business Plan

Quality Assurance Plan

Test Plan

Business Process

Release Notes

Training Plan

Business Requirements

Request for Proposal

Transition Plan

Business Rules

Risk Management Plan

Troubleshooting Guide

Capacity Plan

Scope of Work

Use Case

Case Study

Security Plan

User Guide

Change Management Plan

Service Level Agreement (SLA)

Verification and Validation Plan

Communication Plan

Setup Guide

White Papers

Concept of Operations

Social Media Policy

Work Instructions

Concept Proposal

Contingency Plan

 

Configuration Management Plan

Conversion Plan