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Down and up again - the life of FrameMaker

Adobe India takes the lead

What looked very bad in 2005 (see Daniel Emory's lament hereafter) got a significant change with the new responsibilities in Adobe India. FM-8 with the long awaited support of Unicode was announced in june 2007. From this time on Adobe obviously was committed to the further development of FrameMaker (see the timeline). Nevertheless also during the period of 2007 to 2013 some people felt abliged to fall into the old habit of lamenting Adobe's non-support of FM. For FM-10 to FM-12 i was in the beta-test-group and hence now know some of the developers personally (met them at tekom-converences in Germany). And yes - they have (after some pushing) even answered to my laments about the interface: we have larger and coloured icons since FM-12.

To quote Schakespeare [Julius Cesar, Marc Antons speeach]: For Brutus said, he was ambitios — and Bruus is an honorable man. So are you all, all honorable men …

The decline of FrameMaker in the arms of Adobe

On Wed, 12 Jan 2005 10:36:44 -0800 (PST), Daniel Emory <danemory{seven-two-two-four}@sbcglobal.net> wrote on frmeusers.com:

I've noticed a number of threads discussing FrameMaker's future. Here is my take on it. Those who think they can somehow revive FrameMaker support for the Mac are living in a dreamworld, which should become apparent after they face the realities discussed below.

There are a number of those realities which revolve primarily around the absolute necessity, for a product like FrameMaker, to rely heavily on successfully capturing a large bloc of large license holders. To understand the importance of the big licenses holders requires a review of FrameMaker's history:

  1. FrameMaker was created by FrameTechnology in the mid-to-late 1980s, thus the core code is nearly 20 years old. I've been using it since 1990.
  2. By December, 1995, FrameMaker had reached its zenith with the initial release of FrameMaker+SGML and FrameMaker Version 5.0. At that point, Frame's client base consisted mainly of large companies, many of which owned thousands of licenses. Despite the massive scope of the SGML capability, release 5.0 was amazingly stable and bug-and memory-leak-free, proving the elegance and adaptability of the original core code.
  3. Shortly before the release of Version 5.0, FrameTechnology was purchased by Adobe. Within a year or so, Adobe had pretty much dismantled the Frame Technology organization, eliminated the training and customer support groups, and lost most of the Frame Technology programmers.
  4. The first release by Adobe was version 5.5, whose main purpose was a failed attempt to capture the Asian market by adding double-byte, Rubi and related features, plus a half-assed HTML converter. The release had more bugs than the movie Starship Troopers. It took four releases, culminating with release 5.5.6, to make it once again (relatively) bug-free and stable. The memory leak problem, however, had grown significantly.
  5. Although Adobe had declared ambitions in the late 90's to carry out a major revamp and modularization of the FrameMaker code, nothing ever came of it.
  6. As a result of the failure to modernize and modularize the code, the next two releases, 6 and 7, had relatively modest added features, primarily in the structured document realm. Although these releases were relatively stable, the memory leak problem continued to grow---one of many symptoms that the code had become intractable. This intractability of the code has, quite obviously been the main reason why urgently needed new features to fully support XML (e.g., schema and Unicode support) have failed to materialize. And the ultimate killer App feature, the ability to convert an EDD's format rules into XSL instances is, apparently, unachievable.
  7. During the era when Frame Technology owned FrameMaker, the company's secret to success was to cater to the big companies which owned the vast majority of the licenses. Those large companies demanded the following things:
  8. Wihin a year or two after Adobe bought Frame Technology, Adobe had abandoned and dismantled this entire support structure, and had radically degraded the usefulness of the User Manual.

    This extreme degradation in the entire support structure for FrameMaker explains, more than anything else, the rapid growth in the number of subscribers to the Framer's Lists. That list has become the substitute for what existed before Adobe took over the product.

  9. The combination of what is described in items 6 and 7 above began to produce a growing abandonment of FrameMaker by the big license holders, which has now reached a torrent. This loss of the big license holders was the final blow to FrameMaker's future, among other reasons because the main source of advanced funding of new release development costs has been evaporated.
  10. The advent of high-end XML/Database Content Management Systems requires heavy integration of the authoring software into that new environment. Adobe has done nothing to adapt Framemaker to that environment. Arbortext, with its Epic Editor product has not made that mistake. It has all the bells, whistles and add-ons which allow it to be fully integrated into a high-end CMS environment. FrameMaker has lost its chance to become the authoring system of choice in this environment, which means it can never again become the pre-eminent choice of large companies requiring thousands of licenses.
  11. The saddest thing about all this is that a vast array of talented aftermarket developers has evolved, who produce an incredible array of enhancements to FrameMaker capabilities. During Frame Technology's reign, it produced a thick annual guide to all of the products and services available through those third parties which was offered to all license holders. Inexplicably, Adobe immediatley abandoned that marvelous sales tool, which Frame Technology salespeople would invariably use as part of their sales pitch to potential customers..

Dan Emory & Associates
FrameMaker/FrameMaker+SGML Document Design & Database Publishing

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