Recently, Adobe held a virtual press conference for the 2017 Release of the Adobe Technical Communications Suite, which launched on 31 January 2017. While the Suite continues to include the latest versions of Captivate, Acrobat, and Presenter, it’s RoboHelp (RH), the XML documentation add-on for Adobe Experience Manager (AEM), and its flagship product in the suite, FrameMaker (FM) and its related FrameMaker Server that have all received updates with this newest release.
FrameMaker itself has been around for thirty years now, but it’s been especially in the last few years that significant changes has been made to accommodate DITA support, multi-channel and mobile publishing, and support from right-to-left (RTL) languages.
With the 2017 Release, Adobe’s main objective was to provide new features while simplifying current features that would help with productivity and keep the end users in mind.
I found that now that I have a better understanding of the structured authoring views from my recent DITA course, I could see these products with a fresher perspective while I attended this virtual press conference, and better appreciate the upgrades.
The main attraction for the virtual press conference was FrameMaker, as the product has had some major overhauls, including new features centered around the authoring experience. I won’t go into all of the features, as there’s too much to review, but several of them made a big impression on me. FM has been a complicated tool to use for many years, but it seems to me that with each new release, the tool becomes more user-friendly for those who aren’t as deeply entrenched with all the bells and whistles. The new interface is more modern and usable, and there’s easier access to recent items through the Browse Computer or repository feature. This gives you access to all resources like tutorials, guides, and online help. It also allows you to access structured and unstructured items in one page. Even within the Search function, there is better auto-complete functionality which shows predictive results based on user typing through responsive HTML5 output.
An important upgrade in this 2017 release is that menus have been optimized and reorganized, with more commands to improve discover-ability. My favorite new feature within these new menu changes is that the “Special” menu is gone, and the much more logical “Insert” menu has been added. This is something that has sorely been needed for a long time to be more user-friendly interface! Why, just today I was in a different Adobe tool, and I looked to insert an image, and that particular app (a Creative Cloud app) didn’t have an “Insert” menu at all! Insert menus are commonly used in apps almost universally now, that this was a long time coming. It makes inserting objects more intuitive for an app that’s not always that intuitive. It’s one of those “DUH!” things that I’m glad Adobe has fixed for FrameMaker. The Insert menu provides one stop for inserting images, files, variables, elements, equations…you name it! For example, all that needs to be done to insert an image into a document is to go to Insert-> Image and it’s done! You don’t need DPI settings change, as the DPI settings are retained, but they can be changed. You can also do a “drag and drop” of an image into a document easily. All you do is add to your project, then drag the image into the page, and it adapts to the page. You can still adjust the size in object properties if needed. The object properties dialog is improved, as there is an option to maintain aspect ration, DPI can be set inline, and apply a check inline. The “Element” menu is also enhanced. New options have been added to insert, wrap, and change. The Insert drop down is great! It has everything you need, and will likely be heavily used.
Shortcuts for productivity got a boost, as there is a new Command Search feature that is accessed through the <F7> button and very easy to use. All shortcuts are also now listed next to menu commands so that power users can learn them more easily. <CTRL-1> provides a list of where you are within the structure of your structured authoring, which is rather convenient. Commands that are applicable globally, such as borders, text symbols, rulers, grid lines, and hotspot indicators that impact all open docs both structured and unstructured are viewable now, although there are some limitations with structured views.
PODS have also has some upgrades as well. A new paragraph designer table allows you to create new styles easily in the pod. Styling icons in table and paragraph designers have been replaced with labeled buttons, configurable options have been reorganized and relabeled, and redundant command operations have been removed. Additionally, adding or editing a conditional tag now happens thru a dialog. The former “Select” drop down list has been replaced by Filter icon. Color and background columns have been removed. Conditional takes are listed with their close to final formatting, with tooltips displayed for conditional tags listed in the pod. Several catalog PODS are also redesigned, with old buttons replaced with icons. Deletion has been made intuitive by removing extra options.
These changes have allowed the project management of a given project much easier, as now it’s easier to organize content such as a DITA map, book, topic, image, TOC, or index files related to a project in a single place whereby you can drag and drop files from Windows Explorer.
Structured Authoring gets some boosts as well. The Status bar now provides information about the exact path of the current element in your structured document. You can show or hide content from the structure view for a cleaner view as you work. Some of the new Insert menu options have been added for structured authoring, such as the Insert>Cross-Reference function, which should be very handy. There is also an improved DITA Keyspace Manager, whereby if any DITA map is opened, it gets populated automatically in drop down. The ability to search for a keyspace by entering the 1st few characters.
To keep up with the rapid changes in technology, high resolutions displays are supported now! Support for 4K resolution is now available, and allows the application to scale automatically. No separate setting is required to adjust resolution, so icons are now more sharp and size will scale automatically with the screen resolution.
Publishing features have not been forgotten, as they include brand new responsive HTML5 layouts that are modern, frameless layouts with a redefined browsing experience, are fully customizable, and can easily match the look and feel of your corporate website template. The navigation is search driven, and you also have the ability to add favorites while still being fully accessible (508 compliant).
Wow, that’s a lot right there!
All these changes are great for the FrameMaker app, but what about the FrameMaker Publishing Server? No worries! The 2017 release of the FrameMaker manage remote publishing, and can publish bi-directional content across formats and devices, so it can integrate with any CMS.
RoboHelp has brand-new, responsive HTML5 layouts as well, also incorporating modern, frame-less layouts with a redefined browsing experience that’s fully customizable. The Search autocomplete is also functional here in RoboHelp as well, allowing for search in responsive HTML5 output that shows predictive results based on user typing by segment first–which is a unique feature, gives contextual results, can indicate the number of occurrences of an entered word or phrase which helps in narrowing down the matching results, and can even correct spelling mistakes as you type in the search. The new authoring features include thumbnail support for images, folder imports for baggage files, and variable view toggling.
The Adobe Technical Communications Suite 2017 Release (TCS 2017) includes these latest versions of FrameMaker and RoboHelp, as well as the latest versions of Acrobat Pro, Captivate, and Presenter, which went bought together in the Suite, provide a 58% savings over buying the tools separately.
While not formally part of the Technical Communications Suite, it’s also important to mention that the Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) XML Documentation Add-On 2.0 version has been released. If you are using AEM as your CMS or CCMS, you can host your tech and marketing content that’s written up in FrameMaker more easily through the integration of this add-on. This add-on allows for content sharing and reuse which lends itself to consistent user experience and reduced total cost of ownership. Higher content velocity helps to drive enterprise publishing features, such as batch publishing, baseline publishing, and post-publishing workflows. Enhanced review and collaboration capabilities include web-based inline review, web editor enhancements that help with content management capabilities and document life-cycle management.
If you want more information about TCS 2017, you can click on the Adobe advertisement in the right column, or email the Adobe TCS team directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, there is a 2017 Release Launch Webinar on 15 February 2017. It’s free! Learn more and register for the event on the Adobe Event website.