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Why is Structured FM better than alternative XML editors?

Adobe Community Professional ,
May 23, 2019

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In Re: Creating a new document from the Welcome screen, doesn't , Trevor-Nicholls commented "Frame's formatting facilities are largely superfluous to our needs (although the EDD I maintain tries to approximate the same appearance for the WYSIWYG editing). Structured Frame might seem like overkill for us but it has been much better than alternative XML editors we have tried, for substantial editing at least."

Trevor, I'd be interested to hear what makes FM better for you than other XML editors.

My own opinion is:

1) XML is a linear representation (a sequence of characters) of a hierarchy. Any editor that let's a user edit the characters in an XML document can create a document that is not well-formed. In contrast, a structured FM document is a hierarchy of elements; it can only create well-formed structures. Unmatched start- and end-tags, missing or incorrect delimiters, and so forth just are not possible.

2) Even after 34 years of working with SGML and XML documents, when I am reading them for meaning, I must deliberately ignore the markup. FM's WYSIWYG view makes this mental processing unnecessary.

3) Formatting provides meaning. Even if a WYSIWYG document is not formatted the way the published version will be, if a heading looks like a heading, a list looks like a list, and so forth, it is easier to read and understand and hence to edit.

Anyone else?

     --Lynne

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Why is Structured FM better than alternative XML editors?

Adobe Community Professional ,
May 23, 2019

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In Re: Creating a new document from the Welcome screen, doesn't , Trevor-Nicholls commented "Frame's formatting facilities are largely superfluous to our needs (although the EDD I maintain tries to approximate the same appearance for the WYSIWYG editing). Structured Frame might seem like overkill for us but it has been much better than alternative XML editors we have tried, for substantial editing at least."

Trevor, I'd be interested to hear what makes FM better for you than other XML editors.

My own opinion is:

1) XML is a linear representation (a sequence of characters) of a hierarchy. Any editor that let's a user edit the characters in an XML document can create a document that is not well-formed. In contrast, a structured FM document is a hierarchy of elements; it can only create well-formed structures. Unmatched start- and end-tags, missing or incorrect delimiters, and so forth just are not possible.

2) Even after 34 years of working with SGML and XML documents, when I am reading them for meaning, I must deliberately ignore the markup. FM's WYSIWYG view makes this mental processing unnecessary.

3) Formatting provides meaning. Even if a WYSIWYG document is not formatted the way the published version will be, if a heading looks like a heading, a list looks like a list, and so forth, it is easier to read and understand and hence to edit.

Anyone else?

     --Lynne

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Structured

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327

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May 23, 2019 0
Mentor ,
May 24, 2019

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Hi Lynne, I agree with all of those points. I also would suggest that in general, the ease of getting words on the page and visually managing the structure is well advanced in FrameMaker. The Structure View is fabulous. And as an author, formatting is very important while generating content. Like you say, if a heading looks like a heading, I spend less time thinking about where I am and more about what I want to write. And, I honestly don't know who can write with a bunch of tags showing, so I love the brackets and likewise love the ability to turn them off.

It's also a critically important point that I can create structured documents and enjoy all the amenities without having to save to actual XML, if I don't need XML. In this way, I stay in FrameMaker, don't concern myself heavily with DTDs and other complexities, yet have fully structured documents with all the rich markup and related conveniences.

In my opinion, the main problem is that majority of this greatness is still founded in the original genius. That is, it was so powerfully engineered in its early days, that its current usefulness still rests firmly on that design. But this is technology and no good idea can last forever, no matter how good. You know that I have heavily customized the product... now is a good time to note that I did not do it with dreams of massive riches and world plugin dominance. I did it because I wanted more markup-related features and Adobe was not providing them. All that rich, semantic markup, and so little to actually do with it. Plus, terribly rudimentary tools for the author, like the comical attribute editor. So over the years, I have developed my own features to make the product usable, which I could not live without. If I could not use FM with my customizations, I would not use it at all. Other tools have far outpaced FM in this regard.

So, lucky for FM, part of the original genius included such a powerful way to customize the product. If the product and its API remain stable, this will likely keep me using it for some time.

Russ

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May 24, 2019 1
Explorer ,
May 26, 2019

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I'm a programmer rather than an author so I'm not averse to reading and editing raw XML, but the application users would give up within 5 minutes if they had to do that. For editing standard XML I am quite happy using either eMACS or Sublime Text, which both have modes that do automatic tag closing and matching, but of course they aren't schema-aware. We have built Xopus into our application so that users can edit documents in the browser but Xopus only allows editing one document at a time, so correcting cross references is a pain, and copy/paste across documents, while not impossible, is rather more complicated than I'm comfortable with. I do quite like the Xopus approach and it's really good for doing small corrections and localised rewrites, but unfortunately the developer is discontinuing the product next year 😞

Other editors I have tried (I won't name them) have their good points but all of them have been limited in some way that makes using them a bit of a trial. In Frame I can have the document view, structure view, element catalog, attribute editor and object properties all open simultaneously, and I can open multiple large documents simultaneously and effortlessly move content between them. I see Russ described the attribute editor as comical, but I don't think it's that bad. I've certainly seen worse.

Unfortunately I can't integrate Frame into our live application, as I could with Xopus, and even if I could it would be prohibitively expensive. But as a tool for our technical authors it's great.

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May 26, 2019 1