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More localization and user-friendly features in the new Framemaker 2015

Framemaker2015BoxYou might have heard by now that there have been some updates to the Adobe Technical Communications Suite (TCS) that were released today! Both Framemaker and Robohelp have been updated significantly, while the other programs (Captivate, Acrobat, and Presenter), have had some ongoing updates as well.

Adobe held two virtual press conferences in early May 2015 to let insiders learn about these latest and greatest releases for updating Framemaker and Robohelp. I’ll start with Framemaker in this post, and post about Robohelp in a post coming soon.

The biggest take-away that I took from the Framemaker press conference was that Adobe has worked to make the application more user-friendly so little or no coding is needed, even though access to code is still available, and that efforts are continuing to push forward to make more global and mobile outputs available.

The latest version of Framemaker will be titled Framemaker (FM) 2015. The reason for this is that way, all the versions within TCS will be in synch based on the year that the version was released. So, Robohelp (RH) and the other applications will also be known by the 2015 label for this release. It makes sense, and easier to track than version 10, 11, etc. for different products.

The presentation was given by Kapil Verma, who is the Group Marketing and Product Manager for the Adobe Tech Comm line of products.

Kapil reminded us that in the last four years, there have been a lot of advances in FM, including DITA support, multichannel publishing, mobile publishing, CMS connector API, multiview XML authoring, AEM connector,  native multi-channel device publishing, FM XML author, MathML, Enhanced collaboration w/mobile and cloud based tech, and other productivity boosters. So, while a lot of upgrades and enhancements have happened in that short amount of time, further enhancements found in this update are sure to make technical writers rather happy.

What’s new in FM 2015? There are six main points that were given, and while Kapil did a “deep-dive” into each of these highlights, I’m going to be giving you the highlights of those points.

Framemaker 2015 will allow you to work faster and smarter with several core feature enhancements.

  • Working with tables is much easier and faster now. You can conditionalize columns and rows (formerly only on rows) now, and there are usability improvements to allow arrow keys to navigate cells, tab to insert rows, and drag-drop rows and columns. There are several new table styles available out of the box. When demonstrated it, looked REALLY easy, very clear, and highly flexible.
  • FM writers can now more easily work with conditional text–including applying it at the book level–due to visual indications of conditions applied on tables and graphic objects. Again, when Kapil demonstrated it, it was very clear where color coding was applied so the writer could more clearly see the associations of what conditional text applied in different areas, making it much easier to make appropriate changes and see the changes.
  • You can now generated a “mini” Table of Contents (TOC) in the middle of a document, simply by placing the TOC where you want, then easily modifying it and styling it the way you want!
  • Enhanced Word import provides more options and control, with the ability to map styles for paragraphs, characters and tables while retaining Word formatting for matched styles or inline Word formatting overrides.

Serve a global audience with new right to left language support.

  • Arabic and Hebrew are now included and supported in FM 2015! There is also leveraged support for Right-to-Left (RTL) languages and the ability to create bi-directional documents. This support for bi-directional content means that you can have both RTL and LTR (Left-to-Right) in the same document–you don’t have to choose one or the other. You can have just about any combination of languages in a document now!
  • New object direction properties for document and object such as paragraphs, tables, text flows etc. can be inherited from the direction imported from Word, whether it’s LTR, RTL, or both. You can leverage the direction inheritance model to enable 1-click flip of all objects.
  • You can publish your RTL content into multiple formats including Acrobat, HTML5, HTML, ePub, Kindle, iOS, Android, and Webhelp.

Publish for mobile devices–including mobile apps–natively.

  • FM 2015 has a brand new HTML5 layout with several enhancements, including topic descriptions and breadcrumbs, with the ability to show search results on the left panel for easier navigation. HTML5 layout comes with host of customization abilities including the easy “off/on” functions in which you can choose the component to customize, then view and customize the component properties in a visual/tabular format, allowing writers to achieve frameless outputs.
  • Writers will now be able to publish natively mobile apps using Framemaker that are iOS and Android supported, using PhoneGap:Build, which is an Adobe product. PhoneGap is available for a single app generation for free, while creating multiple apps requires a PhoneGap/CS subscription. The way it works is that once the app is created, it creates a QR code so that a user can scan and download the app, or save the info to your local drive. The content itself can be published to Google Store or iTunes.

Personalized content can be delivered dynamically to your end users.

  • Dynamic content filters are provided in the navigation for the end users to allow them what to see what they want to see. The creation of how to do this reminded me of how taxonomy tags are used in Adobe’s AEM to filter content for readers. This can be done by enabling the dynamic filter in the output, then creating and customizing with the conditional tags used in the content for the end user filter. The Dynamic Content Filter applies to all content, meaning the main content as well as TOC, topics, and search results. Existing tags can be re-used, based on existing conditional tags/expressions functionality.
  • Generate high fidelity ePub outputs by embedding your custom fonts.

XML authoring is easier now for SMEs/Contributors.

  • There was the realization that the current XML authoring workflow in FM 12 has been too complex for SMEs and other “casual contributors”, so a simplified XML authoring environment was created.  This new XML Authoring environment is ideal for SMEs, Casual contributors, and even technical writers who are new to XML/DITA,  as it was created for those who have not been exposed to XML, allowing them to work with common objects rather than elements that will always produce valid XML. The input for these users looks like a form, which is easier for most anyone to figure out.  You can create a free form authoring form, or a guided authoring form where you ask for specific info. (This looked really good, because I could see some benefits for this for a project that I’ve been working on.) This simplified form-like environment allows the end user to enter various types of content quite easily, with a simplified menu and tool bar, an enhanced quick element toolbar which mimics many of the same features as an MS Word text editing toolbar. A DITA toolbar is also provided out of the box, as well as a BYOT (build your own toolbar) feature for your custom application.
  • MathML has been enhanced so you can easily do in-line MathML equations through MathFlow Editor, pick up paragraphs properties so that the equation merges well with the surrounding text, and high quality, searchable vector (EPS) output as opposed to raster (PNG) in FM12.
  • A new connector with DITA Exchange by Content Technologies will be shared natively with FM 2015. An enhanced FM-SharePoint connector with claim-based authentication support and support for SharePoint 2013 is also available.

Enjoy a rock solid product with improved usability and performance.

  • To improve usability and performance, Adobe addressed many bugs from its prior release of FM. In fact, more than 90 bugs were corrected in this release!
  • UI enhancements include the ability to resize dialogs (both TOC, Add/edit and show/hide conditions, x-ref, conref, link-ref), conditional text checkbox behavior mentioned above, and no grey areas when you reduce pod width.
  • Performance enhancements include EDD update performance improvements (same operation has been reduced from hours to minutes!), a smart pod refresh, the FM-Adobe Experience Manager connector  has improved performance with multi-threading support), and contextual in-product tips as needed are now included.

There were SO MANY more details about these new features that I left out for the sake of the length of this post, but if you have any questions whatsoever about this new product, I highly encourage you to contact Adobe. To make it easier for you, click on the ad in the right column of this post to find out more!

As mentioned earlier, this will be part of TCS 2015, which will include the 2015 versions of Framemaker, RoboHelp, Captivate, Acrobat, and Presenter. Buying it as the Tech Comm Suite is a 57% discount from buying buying each of these separately, and you can use these in an end-to-end workflow, so it’s worth getting the entire package!

Pricing & Availability on June 2 (in USD):

Product Full Price Upgrade from last release Upgrade from 2 releases Subscription Price Languages Supported
FrameMaker 2015 $999 FM 12 :$399 FM 11: $599 $29.99/mo English, French, German, and Japanese
FrameMaker 2015 XML Author $399 (no upgrade) $19.99/mo English, French, German, Japanese
FrameMaker 2015 Publishing Server $14,999 FMPS 12: $5999 FMPS 11: $8999 $499/mo English only
RoboHelp 2015 $999 RH 11: $399 RH 10: $599 $29.99/mo English, French, German, Japanese
Technical Communications Suite 2015 $1699 TCS5: $699 TCS 4, 3, 2 or 1: $1199 $49.99/mo English, French, German, Japanese

Overall, as the main foundation product of Technical Communications Suite, Framemaker 2015 looks to be a significant update that will help provide technical writers with the user-friendly, flexible tools needed to truly create the best content possible for their end-users that serve their ever-growing global and mobile needs.

Oh, and there’s a FREE webinar on June 16th, 2015 to launch the product. If you would like to attend that, register on the Adobe Online Event site. The event runs from 11:00 AM-1:00 PM Eastern Time.

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Adobe Day at #STC14 Will Be Looking Towards the Future!

Doc and Marty McFly can't believe the fabulous information they are getting at Adobe Day @STC Summit 2014 . (They already went, and said it was fantastic--not to be missed!)
Doc Brown and Marty McFly can’t believe the fabulous information they got at Adobe Day at the STC Summit 2014. (They already went, and said it was fantastic–not to be missed!)

With each big conference that I attend, I always look forward to Adobe Day, and Adobe Day at the 2014 STC Summit is no exception.  You’ve probably read my past posts about Adobe Day from other conferences, so you know how rich in information they are. I’ve learned an enormous amount of information FOR FREE that would otherwise cost thousands of dollars from the leading experts in the field. It’s hard to find that anywhere else.

On Sunday morning, May 18th, 2014, Adobe is once again putting together a stellar group of technical communications luminaries to set our imaginations on fire! This year’s theme appears to be, “Vision 2020: The Demanding Job of a Technical Communicator.”  Based on the descriptions of each speaker’s talk during this morning session, each will be providing advice and tools–free of any product promotion–that can help make our demanding jobs easier and more productive.  I’ve heard all the speakers before in one way or another, and I can tell you that all of them are top rate. Most of them have spoken at previous Adobe Day events, and they are invited back time and time again because they have valuable information to share.

Kapil Verma of Adobe will be speaking about who he thinks are today’s technical communicators (hint: there’s more than one type!). Marcia Riefer Johnston will be talking about single-sourcing techniques she used to save her company USD$16,000! I’ve taken Marcia’s writing workshop and read her book, so I can tell you she have some marvelous tips. Kevin Siegel will be talking about how to combine something I love–e-learning–with technical documentation to make the documentation more dynamic and valuable! I’m looking forward to that.  Bernard Aschwanden–the STC’s newly elected vice-president–will be speaking about using content strategy to help promote revenue growth. And last, but not least, a panel including all the speakers plus Tom Aldous of Acrolinx, moderated by Matt Sullivan, looks like it will be quite the lively talk.

Did I mention that breakfast, snacks, and lunch are included, too? And it’s FREE?

I know–you are saying, “Great! I want to go! I don’t want to miss out on this!” Great! But you do have to register so that Adobe knows you are coming! Make sure you register by 11:59 PM PDT on May 16th, because you don’t want to miss out!

Register for Adobe Day @ STC Summit 2014

I will be covering the event LIVE on Twitter from my @techcommgeekmom account, so make sure to follow along, even if you are attending!

See you there!

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Writing Mobile Documentation: Rewrite or Cut — with Neil Perlin

After a few years of talking through social media alone, I had the pleasure of meeting Neil Perlin in person at the STC-PMC conference a couple weeks ago. I attended one of his presentations as well at the conference, and throughly enjoyed listening to him talk about mobile and other emerging technologies. I also enjoyed talking with him directly about these topics as well. He gave me some great personal advice along the way, and look forward to receiving more of his advice as time goes on. I’ve been a fan of his work, and I can understand why he’s a very popular speaker.

Neil gave a great presentation online through the TC Dojo by Single-Sourcing Solutions about writing for mobile, and it ties in very nicely with the presentation that I gave at the eLearning Conference 3.0 at Drexel University last week as a follow-up.  Here’s Neil’s presentation–I highly recommend watching it to get some great ideas about how to approach writing for mobile, whether it’s for technical communication or m-learning:

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A New Year–A New Adobe Technical Communication Suite – PREVIEW

TCS5-Ball-Drop
The Times Square New Year’s ball drop has landed…it’s a new Adobe Technical Communication Suite!

As of TODAY, Adobe is releasing five new tools for technical communication professionals everywhere! Technical Communication Suite 5.0 (TCS5), FrameMaker 12 (FM12), FrameMaker XML Author 12 (FMXA 12) and RoboHelp 11 (RH11), and FrameMaker Publishing Server 12 (FMPS12) are now available. It’s been about eighteen months or so since the last big Adobe tech comm release, so you can imagine there are some new and enhanced features included.

I was privileged to be among a group of tech comm professionals who were invited to get a preview of the products before their release, and I have to say, there were so many new and improved features that it was difficult to squeeze all the information into one press conference! But I’m going to give you the highlights, and I’m sure you’re going to find that there’s something new for you.

In the last release of TCS, namely TCS4, there were several big overhauls of the product, namely that the Technical Communications Suite concentrated on providing tools that supported structured authoring, integrated interactive content, and could support the creation of content for mobile devices while providing searchable, personalized, socially enabled content in a way that would yield bigger results with less resources. It was a major step to enhance these tools, especially in regards to adding mobile and interactive abilities to content. Adobe has continued to build on those major changes with the new features in version 5.0.

The foundation of the Tech Comm Suite has always been FrameMaker and RoboHelp. With the release of TCS5, FrameMaker 12 and RoboHelp 11 have been released with big enhancements that appear to concentrate on making these tools more user-friendly and efficient for the technical writers using them.

FM12_boxshot_2014
Image courtesy of Adobe.

For FM12, the first obvious enhancement is the interface. Adobe has improved the user interface to include colored icons and larger icons that look cleaner and sharper in HD. If you like things “old school” in the original smaller, monochromatic colors, that choice is still available as well. There is also more flexibility in customizing your interface. A new “pod” allows the user to access all the currently opened files in one place, from which you can save and close multiple files at one time, while still viewing the unsaved files. There are also enhanced abilities to drag-and-drop to empty areas of the interface, close pods or panels more easily, double-click on empty areas to minimize or expand pods, and searching capabilities have been expanded. These seem like minor details, but when using a product as often as many technical writers use FrameMaker, these finer details can make a big difference! FM12 includes three samples of unstructured content and one DITA-based content sample with the product.

FM12 is not all about a new façade. Adobe has enriched the authoring process with new capabilities. The first thing that caught my attention is that FM12 can generate QR codes now! They can be created for URLs, SMS texts, emails, or to initiate phone calls. QR codes are taking over these days, so it’s great that these can be both created and integrated into FM documentation. Background color enhancements allow uniform height background color and options to specify paragraph boxes. The addition of a new customer-requested feature is the support regular expression coding.

Single-sourcing has been a hot topic in the last few years, and this has been addressed with new enhancements. FM12 gives users a new way to work with conditional text, by using a new conditional tag pod which provides check-box mechanisms with multiple conditions to allow the user to do more complex filtering with conditional text enhancements. It truly simplifies the entire process, that even a newbie should be able to figure it out easily.

Productivity enhancements have also been included in FM12. A searchable smart catalog function allows the user to filter choices based on the valid choices available and phrase typed by the user, while the user can continue to use the keyboard shortcuts as before. There is also a new capability to open all files from the user’s last session in one click, including the last documents and pages in focus, workspaces such as pods, panels and palettes, among others.

Adobe has also taken care to add great collaboration enhancements in FrameMaker. Native connections to any webdev content management system (CMS), such as Documentum, SharePoint, and Adobe CQ are available. Users can now view entire CMS tree layouts, and can access several key CMS functions, such as checking out documents, editing documents, and searching within document, all from FM12.  PDF review commenting has been made more flexible. The most proactive steps towards subject matter expert (SME) reviews is that reviews can be done on PDF reader apps on mobile devices, and can also be used on those same devices using cloud technology such as Dropbox for both internal and external reviewers. As mobile devices become more commonplace replacing desktops and laptops, this is a great step forward!

Image courtesy of Adobe
Image courtesy of Adobe

Publishing abilities have gotten a boost on FrameMaker as well. It used to be that if you wanted to create certain types of digital output, such a ePUBs, for FrameMaker content, you would have to export it to RoboHelp, and have RoboHelp publish the document.  Now, that step is no longer needed for PDFs, Webhelp, ePUBs, Kindle docs, Microsoft HTML Help, responsive HTML5, or Web help! That’s a big deal, as it allows FM12 to be more efficient by skipping that step of exporting and publishing in RoboHelp. Publishing can also be done through the Web now, too, for multiple users using a FrameMaker server, allowing multiple users to publish simultaneously and automatically to multiple channels and devices. That’s a practical efficiency improvement right there!

FMXA12_boxshot_2014
Image courtesy of Adobe

With this release, Adobe is introducing a new FrameMaker product for those who don’t need the full version of FM12, but are mostly concerned in having a tool to do structured XML authoring. FrameMaker XML Author is a tool that has been created especially for the structured XML market.  Those wanting to use unstructured content will still need to use the full FM12 version.  The XML Author is fully standards-compliant for content creation, and supports the most popular XML technology for single-sourcing. It is not FM12 “lite”, but it is a streamlined, easy-to-use version that supports structured authoring without the bulk of the FM12 features that aren’t needed for structured content, yet still integrate-able with the full version of FM12 and available at a lower price. I’m sure that having this tool will be highly beneficial to many companies who are looking for a way to cut costs (it is priced at 40% the price of FM12 “full”) while still reaping the benefits of having a powerful XML authoring tool.

Another customer request that has been granted by Adobe is the integration of MathML, to allow MathML equations to be imported, created, edited, and published with FrameMaker. Adobe is even including 30-day trials of MathFlow (MathML editor from Design Science) with the shipment of FM12 for those who are interested in trying it out. There are several other features that are also included, along with 55 bug fixes, improved performance and launch time for FrameMaker, but I’d end up writing a book at this point!

Of course, with all these big changes to FrameMaker, we can’t forget RoboHelp 11, which also has had a big overhaul.

Image courtesy of Adobe
Image courtesy of Adobe

RH11, like FM12, has a new UI look as well. Based on customer feedback, RH11 has a new color scheme and a more modern interface that looks more pleasing to the eye. It’s a step in the right direction. Adobe has said that further UI improvements are in the works, but this current new UI is the first step in a long overdue makeover for the interface.

The more important feature enhancements with this new release of RoboHelp include advances with HTML5 publishing, printed document enhancements, and collaboration and single-sourcing enhancements.

The HTML5 publishing enhancements are from the perspective that mobile publishing is central, so new single responsive layouts for all devices are available “right out of the box” when downloading RH11. This new single layout feature will work seamlessly across all devices, can be easily customized, will allow for real-time previewing based on the browser size, and can be published with one click.  There is a new wizard-based layout editor available to help with this process that shows the added responsive HTML5 output options. You can also preview layouts, and the customization is great because no coding in CSS needs to be done, as you can use the editor instead.  To me, this is true single-sourcing creation at its best while simplifying the process! This is a big deal!

Printed documents have not been ignored. Users can now customize headers and footers of printed documents by defining them in the master pages. Headers and footers can also be imported from Word. There is also the ability to specify different headers and footers for the cover, and even and odd pages for different sections of a document. This is great for consistency within branded documentation.

In terms of collaboration and single-source improvements, cloud integration and topic sharing for SMEs has now been included.  RH11 now includes a Resource Manager tool that synchronizes folders using Dropbox, Google Drive, or Microsoft SkyDrive as shared locations, and includes filtering for specific folders. This allows the user to manage linked resources within files used in real time across projects and geography.

Image courtesy of Adobe
Image courtesy of Adobe

The Technical Communication Suite 5.0 includes FrameMaker 12 and RoboHelp 11, but it also includes the updated products of Acrobat Pro XI, Captivate 7, and Presenter 9 to complete the Suite. You will notice that Illustrator, which was included in the TCS4 version, is not included. This was a step, Adobe said, to help lower the price. Additionally, from the way I see it, it makes sense, because both Illustrator and Photoshop–another product that used to be included in prior TCS versions–are now affordably available as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. I know that I personally have a CC subscription, and I’m guessing that many active technical communicators do too, so this saves us from spending twice for the same product, which makes a lot of sense. TCS5, FM12, RH11, FM XML Author, and the FMPS12 will also be available both as a subscription and through perpetual license as well. There is separate pricing for the FM XML Author and FM Publishing Server software.

The updates made to FrameMaker and RoboHelp are extensive, as there are many more features, but I think you get the idea. Adobe is taking steps to try to stay on top of technological changes that have taken root in the past couple of years, such as mobile and cloud technology, and is working to continue to make a more robust and user-friendly products for technical communicators.

My recommendation is that if you are looking to try TCS5 or any of the TC products out, or are interested in upgrading your current TCS package or individual products, click on the Adobe advertisement in the upper right corner of this page, or visit Adobe’s TCS product page for more information.

I hope you find this helpful!

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2013 in review, Part 2

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 9,600 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.