FrameMaker 7.1 Not Picture-Perfect

Adobe's FrameMaker 7.1 offers corporate librarians an expanded arsenal of tools for two-way migration between XML repositories and publication-quality layouts.

Adobes FrameMaker 7.1 offers corporate librarians an expanded arsenal of tools for two-way migration between XML repositories and publication-quality layouts.

The January update addresses a weakness in the promise of two-way XML capability that I noted following the May 2002 release of FrameMaker 7.0. Unfortunately, Version 7.1s interoperability with Microsofts Word continues to disappoint, and the leisurely pace of FrameMaker updates may not satisfy organizations whose documents originate in Microsoft applications and go to a publication department for final production.

The $799 Windows version and $1,329 Solaris version of FrameMaker 7.1 are inexplicably being pushed before their public without a Mac OS X compatriot in sight—or even on the horizon.

Adobe thus seems inclined to discard the cross-platform advantage that I noted in my review of Version 7.0 (see www.eWEEK.com/labslinks). The companys action leaves users of Apples platform, the most popular desktop Unix variant, stranded with what may be a dead-end document development tool—one that falls well short of Word in many ease-of-use respects, in addition to interoperability issues that include poor preservation of layouts when importing moderately complex Word documents.

FrameMakers font-formatting options, for example, are cumbersome, offered in separate menus without appearance preview, rather than the unified dialog box Microsoft provides.

Granted, FrameMaker is more likely to be used by professionals working with predefined styles than by amateurs exploring font options ad hoc, so the products target users may not find these inconveniences crippling. However, they represent a speed bump to those who may be thinking of upgrading their document production environments.

Other FrameMaker user interface elements lack Windows look and feel, an idiosyncrasy that I previously accepted as the price of platform neutrality but one that Windows users may not tolerate when competitors like Corels Ventura 10 offer native Windows behavior or as Word also moves toward an XML-centric stance.

More information is available at www.adobe.com/products/framemaker.