Over lunch the other day, I promised to write a post on this rather quiet forum… so what to write about? Weather? Politics? Illnesses? Trump? Maybe something more important: word processing software.
The other month I had to go back to some old files we created some 20 years ago (like a Ph.D. dissertation, a text book, and a course text book, and other things). It was time to revisit a dear old friend of mine: FrameMaker. We used FrameMaker a lot at the University back then and then later also at Ericsson and Infineon.
FrameMaker is nowadays owned and developed by Adobe (well since 1995, but it feels like yesterday :o). It was initally created by the Frame Technology Corporation, but is now revamped, quite a lot.
And with this revisit, I have mixed feelings…
- First, I used to work – a lot – with FrameMaker on unix back in the old days with a slightly different look-and-feel. The Windows version was – and still is – not really the same experience. The pods, for example, cannot be resized. For example, the equation pod could in the unix environment be maximized which allows you to see all panels at the same time. Perfect for fast maths typing. See below.
- Secondly, it tends to crash quite frequently on Windows 10. If that relates to the software or the operating system…
Getting back to the maths typing: quite soon, though, one adapts the keyboard short-cuts: esc-mm for a new medium equation, esc-mp to shrink that equation to minimum size, esc-me to expand it to modify the equation, etc. Annoyingly, however, they have removed the shortcut for, arguably, the most important notation: subindex. Rather than typing the equation in one-flow, you have to interrupt and bring the mouse pointer over to the pod and press on the subindex operator. And with Windows’ strange mouse-over-window focusing it quickly becomes a bit frustrating. (Well, there are other things in the world to worry about… but yet for its intended purpose…)
There are perks, however, with the equation editor: it can do calculations for you, simplify your equations, sort, and reshape, etc. It requires a bit of training and thinking, but once you have it up and running, you can quickly type an equation and then do the manipulations and go towards a resulting, compressed equation demonstrating your results.
A benefit is that FrameMaker also schooled us in using paragraph and character designers and styles. Like latex it made it very easy to change the whole layout of your document if you had to change from one format to another. A few clicks and done. Based on the horrific (well…) Word documents I see and get sent to me, I realize that the art of typesetting a document is sort of lost. “… Did you just press the ‘B’ button to make the text bold? …”
In short, I think FrameMaker is a really good alternative to LaTeX of any kind. It is a good wysiwyg and allows you to compile large, complex documents, and I will give it some more days here now and see where it can bring me. But it is expensive …
There are discounted subscriptions to use the tool on a monthly basis and if you have the opportunity ask your employer to give you access and give it a try. There are interchange formats to bring back and forth from and to other commercially available tools.
The title of this post? Short-cuts. For me FrameMaker is shortcuts. Tragically, the keystrokes and four-key short-cuts are still in the fingertips. After 20 years…
Ok, back to writing … esc-vB … ctrl+9 Eq … esc-me … esc fs
Anyone else using FrameMaker out there?