The latest not-quite-like-anything-before project to arrive at my desk was proved to be an ideal occasion to go back to MML: the styleset required is minimal, so I'm letting the developers experiment with writing their own tagged text. They like that sort of thing. The related question I have is, how long has MML been around? I'm pretty sure there it was there in FM5.5 when I first discovered my favourite documentation environment.
FieryPantone: …how long has MML been around?
Since at least FM2 (1989), based on an entry on Klaus Daube's site.
I've never used it myself, preferring instead to generate MIF directly when needed. My FM experience only goes back to FM3 in any case.
To answer a question you didn't ask, I recommend against using MML. It was developed for an early version of FrameMaker and even back then the manual listed numerous features it did not support. It has not been updated as FrameMaker evolved. For example, it does not support tables (introduced in FM3), more than two Header/Footer markers, or Unicode. Yes, FM 2019 can open an MML file, but there is so much that it can't do that I would look for alternatives.
You say your developers are experimenting with tagged text. Is that because they do not have FrameMaker itself? Are they writing text and tagging paragraph and possibly character formats? I assume they are not defining paragraph and character formats. If they are creating files that look something like:
<title>blah blah blah
<paragraph>several lines of text
<paragraph>more lines of text
then you could use a tool such as perl to turn the markup into MIF.
My own preference would be to have them indicate the start and end of document units to create XML:
<title>blah blah blah</title>
<paragraph>several lines of text</paragraph>
<paragraph>more lines of text</paragraph>
I would then create a structured application in FrameMaker which would read their files and apply context-sensitive formatting automatically.
Thanks, Lynn, for these useful comments – which deserve a thoughtful reply.
The developers certainly don't have FM! but appreciate the results it helps us deliver. we've hammered out a way of working together where they run their own discussions on a wiki-style platform until the day comes where the content has to be reviewed and published; so far so good, but the platform they have chosen (too long ago to change now …) is fairly restricted when it comes to import/export.
They're happy with the idea of tagged text as a neutral format they can send either to the wiki or to me, and MML tagging using a strictly limited set of tags I have already defined feels like a workable compromise. I couldn't justify requesting the time it would take to have one of them write a conversion script, and I'm afraid the greater precision of MIF would probably turn round and bite us. Yes, it's a shame MML has never been updated to include tables; CALS tables are human-readable, given the right sort of slightly warped human, but MIF tables are pretty well 'unimaginable'.
As for structure … well, these developers understand that most of our documentation is handled as DITA-compliant xml; they are going to make a real effort to write shorter wiki pages (linked as necessary) that are closer to proper topics, and quite a few of them are probably capable of writing simple DITA by hand. But (at least with FM12, which is what I'm currently stuck with) the advantages of easy import into FM are hugely outweighed by the complexities of applying our existing styles and layout. I've been on courses, I've tried extra tools, and have to conclude this would be actively retrograde.
So I'll take note of your suggestions, and will certainly bear them in mind if ever I manage to get a newer FM! in the meantime, wish me luck ;-}
Wasn't that light-weight (now discontinued) FM XML authoring tool still kicking around in version 12? Or am I just mis-remembering? ;>)
Thank you for your clarification.
There is no reason to change a process that is working. Just make sure that your developers continue to save their files in an MML-compatible character set.
FieryPantone: Yes, it's a shame MML has never been updated to include tables; CALS tables are human-readable, given the right sort of slightly warped human, but MIF tables are pretty well 'unimaginable'.
Actually, it's not bad. I've even generated MIF tables from a spreadsheet (as full FM documents, but I suspect a MIF snippet would work).
If you want to approach it, it would probably be easier to start with the target layout in FM, with sample content, save that as MIF, zoom into and study the markup.
But then, I used to do tables in troff too.