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TO O L S OF THE T R A D E                                    FrameMaker                                    Turns 25       ...
hybrid product of these two models would be tremendously              embed text that resembled a miniature page into grap...
TO O L S OF THE T R A D E“Henry held up the troff manual, thumbed through it and         for hardcore, tech-comm projects....
4 Attribute editor: The new attribute editor makes it easier    for their strong loyalty to this product and their continu...
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Frame Maker Turns 25 Maxwell Hoffmann (Interview With Inventor Charles Corfield)


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Interview with Inventor Charles Corfield and
an Update on New FrameMaker 10 Functionality by Max Hoffmann

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Frame Maker Turns 25 Maxwell Hoffmann (Interview With Inventor Charles Corfield)

  1. 1. TO O L S OF THE T R A D E FrameMaker Turns 25 Interview with Inventor Charles Corfield and an Update on New FrameMaker 10 Functionality By MAxWEll HoFFMANN | MemberThe Past: Where Did FrameMaker Come From? market for academic positions in astrophysics, CharlesIn April of this year, FrameMaker celebrates the 25th realized that the market had virtually dried up, due toanniversary of its “birth,” in terms of the founding of shrinking science budgets, which had soared in the 1960sFrame Technology. Although Adobe acquired FrameMaker and 1995 and has successfully managed product development Desiring a career that would involve challenging,for the past 15+ years, it seems like a good time to revisit research-oriented work, Charles realized that he wouldthe product’s birth and try to determine how and why this have to get his work financed; he did not want to rely onsensible publishing solution has remained a market leader the limited resources of the National Science Foundationfor a quarter of a century. (NSF), which funded nearly all such research in the early Although Frame Technology had several company 1980s. “It occurred to me, why not just sell a productco-founders (Steve Kirsch, inventor of the optical mouse; directly to the tax-payers, and cut out the middlemanDavid Murray, inventor of FrameMaker tables and much of (NSF)? My next problem was: ‘what on earth’ was I going tothe UI; and finance maven, Vickie Blakslee), I decided to sell to the consumer?”interview just one of the founders: FrameMaker’s inventor Seeking a business challenge where his strength as aCharles Corfield. Besides inventing FrameMaker, Charles mathematician could be leveraged, Charles canvassed severalhas successfully ascended Mount Everest, won several computer science department colleagues and discovered a50-mile marathons, has his own Wikipedia page, and even need for an accessible, affordable, WYSIWYG documenta-has a courtyard at Cambridge University named after him. tion tool. “The Macintosh had only recently appeared on theHow did this unique individual invent a publishing solution scene and was already influencing user expectations in termswith such lasting power? In Charles’s case, it did indeed of more ‘user-friendly’ authoring tools.” Even though Charlestake “rocket science” to get the process going. saw a rich, potential market beyond the limitations of early “It all started while I was a student at Columbia in NYC versions of MacWrite and MacDraw, he could not find anin the early 1980s, working on a PhD in astrophysical fluid existing, affordable authoring solution that combined thedynamics,” Charles recalls. Taking a hard look at the job strength of both products. “It became clear to me that intercom 11
  2. 2. hybrid product of these two models would be tremendously embed text that resembled a miniature page into graphics.”useful to people writing documentation that required a lot Charles realized that this could be done by creatingof illustrations. Engineers immediately came to mind.” anchored frames in the text flow, or by handling unique page layout challenges with hand-drawn text frames that could paginate from one page to another. “I think it is possible that FrameMaker may have been the first desktop publishing product to fully meet the need of flexibly handling text in graphics for ‘challenging’ and high-volume technical publications,” Charles speculates. Critical Early Influences on Product Development Early FrameMaker product development had two key influences: (1) UNIx workstations with a multitasking oS for a hardware platform and (2) eCAD engineers as the first users, who had to create documentation that was thousands of pages long. Charles recalls an early visit with Henry McGilton, then the head of tech pubs at Sun Microsystems. At the time, Sun was publishing all of their manuals using troff and editing text with primitive tools likeFigure 1. An early Mac desktop from the 1980s, as it appeared the “vi” editors, which were widely used in the UNIx world.around the time of FrameMaker’s birth. Sample TROFF-coded entry Charles got wind of the Sun Microsystems Catalyst This is a part of a file coded for TROFF,program, which loaned HW (Sun UNIx workstations) to the Unix typesetting program. A Perl fil-developers who had promising software plans. He pitched ter converts files structured like this tohis idea for an “industrial strength” WYSIWYG word files that make sense to a WWW browser.processor that also did page layout and graphic editing to .Cs “* Ulva” indica “Roth”Sun. Soon, a $20,000 Sun workstation was being shipped .Peto his apartment on West 122nd Street in New York City. f2Ulva indicaf1“It was a much riskier neighborhood in those days,” Charles Roth, 1806: 327--328confesses. “I wonder how willing Sun would have been, had (type locality: *QEx India orientali*Uthey realized that their hardware was essentially headed [India f2fidef1toward a college student’s apartment in a bad neighbor- Martens, 1868: 60--61]).hood?” The day after the UNIx-based workstation arrived, .Ts Misapplied name:Charles headed to a corner bookstore to buy a book on .SyC-programming (it was just regular “C” in those days, not f2Phycoseris giganteaf1.---“C++”) and a couple of days later, he began writing code. Martens, 1868: 60--61. .IdAn Authoring Solution Gap Needed To Be Filled India.Charles realized that engineers and technical authors who .Qphad to create high page-count documentation with lots of Note:illustrations basically had a choice between two extreme According tosolutions. There was code-driven, public domain software C. Agardh (1823 [1822--1823]: 407--408),like troff and TeX, and then there was the hefty-priced who had seen a specimenalternative of Interleaf, which was very weak in page layout in Roth’s herbarium, f2Ulva indicaf1 Rothand managing anchored frames at that time. is referable to the plant “There was clearly a vacuum waiting to be filled with that has traditionally but erroneously beenan accessible and ‘affordable’ solution,” Charles relates. calledHe knew that a different model was required to meet the f2Ulva latissimaf1 Linnaeus (see f2Ulvademanding needs of engineers and other technical authors latissimaf1 auctorum).with high-volume documentation needs. Unlike all MAC- Martens (f2l.c.f1) used the nameor PC-based desktop publishing products of that time, f2Phycoseris giganteaf1 to refer toFrameMaker was intended for >1,000 page docs even before Roth’s was born! .Qc “I wanted to treat text and graphics symmetrically. Inother words, be able to embed graphics into text, or to Figure 2. Sample TROFF-coded entry12 intercom April 2011
  3. 3. TO O L S OF THE T R A D E“Henry held up the troff manual, thumbed through it and for hardcore, tech-comm projects. When working withsaid ‘this is what we need.’ That became our goal.” Charles multiple languages, any time savings in authoring orand the co-founders of the company realized that engineers editing are magnified by the number of languages inon UNIx workstations needed something that “felt” as which a project is delivered. lacking space for a fullintuitive and accessible as the early MAC user interface. product review, I’ll list some of the biggest time and money Because UNIx was a powerful, multitasking operating savers that FrameMaker 10 offers. For more FM features,system, the earliest working prototype of FrameMaker see our blog at Globalization Partners International,simultaneously handled page layout, word processing graphics creation and editing. Don’t forget that thiswas still the mid-1980s, and all early desktop publishing Unstructured Authoringsolutions on the MAC or PC required separate software 4 Style catalog management and find/replace formatprograms to do either page layout or word processing—not overrides: Search for any paragraph, character string,both at the same time. or table which has formatting that does not match the Although more limited in some areas of functional- catalog. You can use “replace” to eliminate the override.ity than Interleaf, the earliest releases of FrameMaker Paragraph catalog, character catalog, and the new tablewere priced at a fraction of the cost. As a result, the then catalog all have an options button that allows you to (1)UNIx-only product took off like wildfire, and was soon view only styles in use, (2) create custom lists of styles, orbeing ported to a variety of other UNIx workstations. Early (3) delete unused styles. one-click deletion of unusedin the life of the product, the core code for FrameMaker styles is particularly useful for template building, whenwas made relatively “portable” so that it could eventually you may wish to only import certain strategic paragraph,extend beyond UNIx-only hardware. character, and table styles from a source document. Fast forward a few years to a strategic visit with Boeing 4 Suppress alerts, background colors, and drag-and-dropComputer Services. “They were designing the 777 at the editing: When upgrading older legacy documents fromtime,” Charles relates. “If Boeing were to have printed out previous releases (or when opening multiple translatedall of the documentation, it would have weighed more versions of older documents), it can be incrediblythan the aircraft.” Boeing wanted to break the doc set annoying to have multiple pop-up alerts that “fontsup into “snippets,” perhaps pages that could be stored in are missing” or that the “document was created witha database. “If a mechanic scanned a barcode on a part an older release.” Now, at appropriate times, you canof the aircraft, the database should pull in the relevant eliminate these alerts, saving perhaps hundreds of hoursportion of documentation,” Charles continues. “The goal in a high-production environment over the course of awas to go to complete electronic delivery.” year. Background text colors are a terrific enhancement This led to FrameMaker’s first development in to make conditional text tags more obvious. Everyonestructured documents and separating structure or content is used to drag-and-drop editing, from email tools tofrom formatting. “The logical choice at the time was Microsoft Word. These enhancements make the productSGMl, the ‘grand daddy’ of HTMl, xMl, and all other more accessible to an audience of new users.derivatives,” Charles remembers. The result was an early 4 Automation through scripting: Adobe ExtendScriptprototype of FrameBuilder, which became the foundation allows users to bundle repetitive tasks into simpleof the structured editing engine that FrameMaker uses scripts. Scripts may be stored in a catalog and may betoday. Subsequent product development led to what may invoked manually or automatically.have been one of the earliest Web (HTMl) deliveriesof product documentation. Charles also admits that Structured XML and DITA Authoring, CMS, andstructured authoring for xMl and DITA is one of the areas FrameServerin which FrameMaker is most resilient, with features that 4 Standards support for DITA 1.2: Work more effectivelycontinue to make FrameMaker a market leader. with DITA map-level elements, support for <keydef> and <topicset> and other enhancements allow easyThe Present: FrameMaker 10 and Significant importation of multiple referenced elements.New Features 4 Enhanced tag view: Users may view elements as tags,Moving away from Charles and product history, let’s briefly which will now expand and collapse. This makes itreview the latest enhancements to FrameMaker 10, released possible to do significant structural editing in xMl or11 January 2011. like all documentation specialists in DITA without using the structure view window. A greatthe translation industry, my team frequently works with convenience for users with a single screen or laptopFrameMaker because it is still the number-one choice for environment.most of our high page-count customers. 4 Filter by attribute: Attributes can easily provide alternate There is still no affordable alternative to FrameMaker display for conditional content. Show/Hide expressionsthat has an equivalent number of time-saving features, can make content visible or hidden, based on elementreduced ramp-up time, and versatile, multi-device output intercom 13
  4. 4. 4 Attribute editor: The new attribute editor makes it easier for their strong loyalty to this product and their continued to edit attributes and can decrease the number of times engagement with the product development team, to help us you must use the structure view. improve FrameMaker even further.”4 Compare structured documents: The document Kapil is not surprised that FrameMaker has maintained comparison utility now marks differences in element its leading product status for a quarter of a century. “We structure as well as plain text content. at Adobe actively listen to our customers and continue to4 Smart Insert in XML files: Multiple, nested sibling deliver on the ever-changing needs of our users.” According elements may be automatically inserted as a specified to Kapil, the changing needs of FrameMaker users are element is created, due to new controls in the EDD driven by dramatic shifts in technology, such as the move (Element Definition Document). to xMl and DITA authoring, multi-device explosion4 Built-in CMS support: FrameMaker 10 ships (including mobile phones, tablets, etc.), and, of course, bundled with pre-built, no-cost connectors for EMC globalization. “Rest assured that Adobe will continue to Documentum and Microsoft Sharepoint content invest heavily in FrameMaker going forward,” concludes management systems. Kapil, “so that we can continue to meet the ever-changing needs of technical writers and content creation groups.”Other Miscellaneous Enhancements4 Automatic spell checker. Whatever Happened to Charles Corfield?4 Repeat last operation (ideal for multi-step actions, like Speaking of track records, what about Charles Corfield, applying conditional text tags). marathon runner, inventor, and CEo? Besides philan-4 Setting a poster image for rich media imports and thropic activity to ensure that more “Charles Corfields” extended video import formats. come along, founding several companies, and serving on4 Importing PDF comments: comments imported from the boards of more companies than can be mentioned PDF review now display more logically, and the author here, his latest venture is quite intriguing. Charles is CEo and time stamp are displayed when cursor is inserted of nVoQ (pronounced “envoke,” formerly SandCherry), in a comment. You may also select which reviewer’s comments you wish to display. “our product enables speech recognition ‘in the4 Track Text Edits works across DITA Maps and Books. cloud,’” Corfield enthused. “Basically, what we have done4 Combined with RoboHelp, FrameMaker can now publish is replace typing with talking. Instead of using a desktop to ePUBS or Adobe AIR community help forum format, application for speech recognition, you simply log-in from with user-generated, moderated comments enabled. anywhere and just start talking.” The speech recognition is in the cloud, where your transcribed “dictation” is storedThe Future of FrameMaker and Adobe’s for reuse on multiple devices. Sounds like a godsend forCommitment to the Product bloggers struggling with those “glass” keyboards.Although FrameMaker had a brilliant birth, a remarkable Regarding track records, Corfield has demonstratedgroup of founders and initial core-code developers, remarkable staying power in his own right. He recently wonFrameMaker has been in Adobe’s hands for more than half a 50-mile marathon (opening up with a 4-mile lead) at theof its life. So let’s turn to the current product manager to Running from an Angel event in the lake Mead area, neargain his insights into FrameMaker’s remarkable “staying las Vegas. Coincidentally, that was just three days beforepower” and its future. the release of FrameMaker 10. Now in his early 50s, Charles “FrameMaker continues to be the leading authoring admits to a certain “impish delight” in winning marathonstool for both unstructured and structured xMl content. in which he outruns competitors half his age. PerhapsIt is also the lowest cost authoring and publishing solution FrameMaker is chuckling somewhere inside its code, feelingfor tech writers, due to its built-in publishing engine,” just a little bit like Charles. istates Kapil Verma, product manager for FrameMaker.Kapil observes that FrameMaker also provides the lowest MAxWEll HoFFMANN of Globalization Partners Interna-transition costs for organizations who wish to migrate tional (GPI) ( the translationfrom unstructured to DITA authoring. “This is because services agency is an STC member of the Williamette Valley chaptermany content creators have already used FrameMaker for in Oregon and a 23-year veteran user of FrameMaker. As employeeunstructured authoring; there is a dramatic reduction in number 66 at Frame Technology, he worked closely with Charlestraining and ramp up time for a transition to FrameMaker- Corfield from 1988 to 1994. Recently designated an Adobebased DITA authoring.” Community Professional in FrameMaker, Hoffmann leads a Regarding FrameMaker’s 25-year track record, Kapil team of Adobe Technical Communication Suite experts providingsays that it feels great to be the product manager of a training, consulting, and legacy content migration strategies intoproduct which has withstood the test of time and has XML and DITA for GPI’s customers. You may follow Hoffmannenjoyed strong customer loyalty for 25 long years. “I want and GPI team members on Twitter, thank all the FrameMaker users and our valued partners14 intercom April 2011