Those of you who regularly read this blog might remember a rather intense discussion of Adobe FrameMaker that I started about a year ago. The basic premise of the post concerned my observations of my customers and their choices of tools over the years. When I first started my company, back in 1994, FrameMaker was the gold standard. Pretty much everyone who was anyone, doing anything worthwhile used it. And over the years, even through some version ups and downs, in the unstructured world, FrameMaker was it. My post from last year bemoaned the fact that the structured world seemed to move forward and Adobe didn’t appear to be listening.

I am very happy to say that things have changed. Adobe is listening – possibly better than any of its competition.

After I wrote my “dinosaur” post, I received an incredible response from Adobe. Numerous folks from Adobe emailed me. A few spoke to me live. I was asked to collaborate and offer ideas. Adobe was reading my blog? Adobe cared about what I had to say? Wow! What a refreshing change of pace! What an interesting way to do business – listen to your customers?! Ask questions?! Collaborate?!

When was the last time you worked with a multi-billion dollar company that actually cared about what you have to say? I’ve been in this business a long time, and for me, this was the first time – ever.

I’ve got plenty of complaints about Microsoft Word. There are many (many) things I’d like to see changed in PowerPoint. Outlook? Don’t even get me started. I don’t see Microsoft knocking on my door to collaborate on product enhancements, fixing bugs, or modifying plain old annoyances. Heck, they don’t even read my blog. 🙂

But in all seriousness, I am incredibly impressed at Adobe’s concern and the attention it has been paying to the tech writing community. In particular, Tom Aldous, Ankur Jain, Parth Mukherjee, Saibal Bhattacharjee, and Maxwell Hoffman have done an outstanding job of outreach, listening, and then implementing useful changes to the software. They listened to the complaints and addressed them.

Since FrameMaker 11 was released, I have been recommending it to more and more customers. Many of my customers want to move from unstructured authoring to a structured environment. Equally as many do not have the time, money, or resources to purchase a new authoring tool, teach it to all of their writers and editors, and implement it. And now, they don’t have to. FrameMaker 11 is an easy upgrade from unstructured to structured. If the author wants to hide much of the XML coding, it is possible. And as writers become more adept and advanced at XML, FrameMaker has the native support, additional features, and additional views that allow them to grow. Certainly the ease at which you can do multichannel publishing using FrameMaker Publishing Server sets it apart from many XML editors. In fact, at this point it might be the XML companies who need to catch up to FrameMaker in terms of ease of use.

There have been so many reviews of the new features that Adobe maintains an online list of them. Many reviews of the specifics have been written by some of the smartest people in our industry. Scott Prentice of Leximation has one of the most thorough feature reviews I have read. The review by FrameGurus is also very detailed. In fact, there are so many feature reviews already out there, I’m not so sure another one (mine) would offering anything new. Sure, I have my favorite new features – Code View is probably my personal favorite, though Xpath support is equally important, and I like the XSLT features, too – but what I really want to emphasize is how impressed I am with the type of company Adobe has become.

Adobe is a company that asks, listens, learns, and implements. And that, my friends, is worth its weight in gold and is also worth the loyalty of the many fans who, like me, have used FrameMaker since the dark ages.


Val Swisher
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