Since the bullets were flying, I thought I would let off some shots of my own. I can’t speak to other XML use cases or schemas, but I do have a comment about using FrameMaker for DITA. Starting in November of 2011, I had to use FrameMaker 10 as a DITA editor for about six weeks until I had time to reconfigure the publishing process for another tool (and pretty up PDF output with mypdf). I’ve had a good deal of experience with writing and producing DITA content with XMetaL, and I agree with the criteria that Mr. Aldous sets out. So I can say that, yes, FrameMaker is a real XML editor.
It’s a really really lousy one.
As Mr. Baker states, “A real XML editor…is not one that presents a DTP interface over an XML schema that is an abstraction of the printed document.” No disagreement here at all. While DITA is (mostly) not an abstraction of a printed document, it does present a DTP interface over the schema. When I was Cheap Barcelona football shirts authoring DITA using FrameMaker, sure enough, I saw a page-like interface. I was tricked into thinking that it was somehow WYSIWYG. It’s most certainly not. Line and page breaks move around on the screen depending if you have tags on or off, and the screen presentation most certainly has no relationship to the output. It also doesn’t give a full document view. So while FrameMaker promises a DTP interface (which I agree would be a bad thing), it doesn’t even deliver on this promise.
In my view, though, there was one really unforgiveable issue with FrameMaker: it allows you to insert elements where they are not allowed by the schema. Sure, it will raise a warning when you try to save a file that violates the schema. Then you can try to fix the issue (if it doesn’t crash first, or if you Cheap Manchester United football shirts don’t need to resort to editing the XML), but this is hardly an example of authors “becom[ing] become productive with minimal training as they are using a familiar interface”, as Mr. Aldous puts it.
I have seen discussions where FrameMaker is said to be a good transitional system for people moving from structured or unstructured FrameMaker to DITA. I completely disagree. DITA is a complete paradigm shift; holding on to a legacy technology might make you feel that the transition is being eased, but the old interface will fool you into thinking that things have changed less than they have. You’re also likely to be frustrated that the DTP nature is an illusion.
If you are making the switch to DITA, then make the switch. I’d suggest evaluating multiple authoring tools; yes, including FrameMaker. But don’t let it fool you by having an interface that you’ve seen before.
Other gripes with FrameMaker
- It’s unstable. In particular, typing <enter> after a step element causes it to crash. Version 10.0.2 was supposed to fix this issue, but it didn’t for me.
- You lose undo history after saving a file.
- Opening a file automatically makes FrameMaker think that the file has changed. If you use a version control system (such as Subversion or git) as I do, this can lead to many “versions” where nothing has changed in the topic.
- There is no raw XML view–the closest is an option to view the open file in Notepad. (Because who doesn’t love editing XML in Notepad?)
- It pollutes the markup. For example, it adds unnecessary (albeit valid) attributes for tables and images. I want layout to be done in the stylesheet, not in the source. Fortunately a little XSLT will clean up this pollution.
- Output doesn’t really work, although one would think that Adobe would be pretty good at producing PDF at least. I used Leximation’s DITA-FMx plugin, which addresses a number of the problems with FrameMaker. DITA-FMx has a lot of great features, including some I would like cheap football tops to see in other commercial DITA editors. But why should I have to buy another piece of software to fix FrameMaker? No doubt the FrameMaker apologists will discount my experience–but apparently cheap football shirts Scott Prentice has a market for this package so I don’t think I’m alone.