When I recently started using Adobe’s latest version of FrameMaker, I felt déjà vu.
Back in the 2000, when I used FrameMaker 6.0, I wrote content in the software program and then converted it to WebHelp using Quadralay Corporation’s WebWorks, which was integrated into FrameMaker at the time. I tagged my content in FrameMaker using paragraph styles and WebWorks dutifully converted those paragraph styles into HTML code. At the time I worked for a company that wanted me to create a help project that took advantage of single sourcing. Somehow, I foolishly accepted the task of figuring how to create WebHelp out of FrameMaker.
In 2005, Adobe acquired Macromedia and with it RoboHelp, its help authoring tool. A few years later, Abobe offered its Technical Communications Suite, which provided tighter integration between FrameMaker and RoboHelp. For the first time, you could write content in FrameMaker and then have content converted to help by RoboHelp. Sort of like the FrameMaker and WebWorks integration.
But not exactly. As RoboHelp has been around since 1991, much of its user interface looks like a movie from the 1990s. FrameMaker is no spring chicken either. Together, the user is faced with two respected but old and bloated software programs that are forced to communicate for the first time. The communication worked but it wasn’t ideal. For example, when I linked the help files in RoboHelp to the original FrameMaker files, the updating process was slow and sometimes inconsistent. If I made an edit to a FrameMaker chapter, RoboHelp didn’t always detect the change. And the updating process wasn’t exactly sprightly.
Fast forward to Adobe’s latest version of FrameMaker. Version 12 enables technical writers to create online help right from FrameMaker. By not forcing users to deal with RoboHelp in the help creation process, I found creating WebHelp to be much faster than earlier versions when users needed to toggle between FrameMaker and RoboHelp.
FrameMaker 12 can create HTML5 help for mobile devices, WebHelp, EPUB files, Kindle files, and Microsoft HTML Help.
I have used RoboHelp for years and creating online help directly from FrameMaker does require some paradigm shifts (for example, how table of contents are created). But overall, FrameMaker 12 makes it faster and simpler to create online help. A welcome change.