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FrameMaker history

FrameMaker is also on en.wikipedia.org.

Key persons

Charles Corefield ()
Charles (Chuck) Geschke
(1939 - 2021)
Steve Kirsch (1956 - )
John Warnock (1940 - 2023)


Some of the sources delivered conflicting dates, hence I needed to judge things.

[To top/bottom of page] Timeline of FrameMaker

Graphic timeline of the FrameMaker versions, including the platforms and some company data

Adobe's view on the recent developments of FrameMaker
Recent history of FrameMaker in the view of Adobe

[To top/bottom of page] Evolution of the product

These pages list main features.

version 1.11 (1986) to 3.0 (1992)
version 4.0 (1993) to 6.0 (2000)
version 7.0 (2002) to 7.1 (2005)
version 8.0 (2007) and 9.0 (2009)
version 10.0 (20111) and 11.0 (2012)
version 12.0 (2014) and 13.0 (2015)
version 14.0 (2017) and 15.0 (2019)
version 16.0 (2020) and 17.0 (2022)

See also Version Comparison Chart for FM-9 to 13 (aka 2015) and for FM-11 to 15 (aka 2019).

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[To top/bottom of page] A personal memory

[2010-04-17 Klaus Daube]
In 1987 I joined Protext IV in Boston, Mass. (ISBN 978-0906783801) – a conference dealing with text and document processing. Bob A. Morris, the host of this conference arranged a visit at Interleaf. I remember my foot walk across the Charles River Dam and the modern building of Interleaf not far north of the bridge.

At that time Interleaf was porting their software from Unix to the MacIntosh – keeping their proprietary user interface they had developed in Lisp. I discussed with conference attendees whether it was a good idea to keep the proprietary user interface. My argument was that nobody at a computer works with only one application (not even as a clerk on the so called main frames) and hence is reluctant to deal with various interfaces. I got the impression that there was also an internal discussion on this subject within Interleaf and some people would have left the company and followed their own ideas – namely to relay on the interface of the platform.

When years later I discovered FrameMaker it was to my great pleasure to find it using the interface of the platform, eventhough Windows 3.1 was really limited …

[To top/bottom of page] The historical environment

[2014-10-07 Fred Ridder]
Interleaf TPS (Technical Publishing System) predated FrameMaker by about 5 years. Until about 1990, both it and FrameMaker only ran on workstations and minicomputers (SUN SPARCstations, DEC PDPs, etc.) so the Interleaf licensing model was actually pretty familiar to (if not popular with) customers. Interleaf was also a structured authoring tool years before structured information (e.g., SGML) became an accepted concept, so I'd have to say that it was the real pioneer. But the combination of unpopular licensing and unfamiliar document model definitely gave FrameMaker a leg up when they got started.

Another competitor started the same year as Frame, namely Ventura Publisher, who had the weight of Xerox behind them (this may or may not have been a good thing). Publisher had the advantage of being able to directly accept content created in a variety of other applications, such as MS Word, Wordstar, and WordPerfect, but had the disadvantage of not being a usable self-contained document authoring environment like FrameMaker.

And there was also LaTeX for the hard core who didn't believe in WYSIWYG (or WYSIAWYG).

When the Windows version of FrameMaker came along in 1991, and FrameBuilder (the SGML version) in 1992, there were a whole new set of competitors, including startup Arbortext in the SGML arena.

[To top/bottom of page] History in brief

Charles Corfield was the "engineer" who wrote the first version of FrameMaker – he needed something better than other available tools for doing his dissertation, and that was the gestation of Frame after he gave up graduate study to write a program that would lead to his starting a software company. That program, /etc/publisher, was the forerunner of FrameMaker. He got together with David Murray (who actually was a music major) and Steve Kirsch (who founded Mouse Systems and had a few million available after cashing out of Mouse Systems) and the company was founded, along with (Ronnie?) Blakeley Vickie Blakeslee who had been with Steve at Mouse Systems.

The market was so hungry for an affordable alternative to Interleaf that Frame was able to sell lots of licenses at approx. $1,500 each for over a year for the pre-1.0 beta version, with the promise of a free upgrade to the shipping production version. (Interleaf was selling turnkey systems for around $30K at the time, and wanted the same amount for software only.)

Frame got real big with FedGovCo, which appreciated it as an unbundled software package (as opposed to Interleaf, which wanted to sell only turnkey hardware/software combinations at the time), and also because Interleaf had PO'ed*) Sun by using a deal Interleaf had with Sun for hardware to undercut Sun's own prices for the same hardware. Sun jumped on the chance to use FrameMaker as a "Friend of Sun" and gave Frame lots of marketing support.

In the early 1990s, a wave of UNIX workstation vendors - Sony, Motorola, Data General, MIPS, and Apollo - provided funding to Frame Technology for an OEM version for their platforms.

[Framers-Digest of Tuesday, May 13 1997 (Volume 02 : Number 280); Corrections according to personal mail from David Hemmendinger 2019-08-19 ]

[To top/bottom of page] About the founders of Frame Technology

Steve Kirsch

During his junior high and high school years, Kirsch also worked on operating systems for the group and wrote a status monitoring program, so users could tell who else was on the system.
From the UCLA computer room, Kirsch went on to invent the optical mouse, patent the method of tracking advertising impressions on the Internet by click-counting, and start and profitably sell three companies. His Mouse Systems Corp. marketed the mouse; his Frame Technology Corp. developed publishing software that could handle equations and tables; and his Infoseek Corp. developed a pioneering search engine. He is now launching his fourth venture: Propel Corp., which intends to make operating systems and provide other tools for e-commerce. Along the way, he has made several hundred million dollars and launched a charitable foundation that gives over US $5 million in grants annually. [www.spectrum.ieee.org] the page has disappeared ≤2018, hence see this PDF

David Murray

In 1986 Steve and David left Mouse Systems to start Frame Technology Corporation with two other partners. David was the principal designer and coauthor of Frame's flagship technical publishing product, FrameMaker, which has garnered many awards and after almost 20 years remains the market leader in technical publishing solutions. During his 9-years at Frame, David served as the founders’ representative on the Board of Directors, as VP of Engineering, and as VP of Advanced Development. Frame went public in 1992 and was acquired by Adobe Systems in 1994. [www.propel.com] the page has disappeared ≤2018, hence see this PDF.

Charles Corfield

Corfield, a Cambridge University trained mathematician, possesses a strong engineering background and track record managing and advising growing technology companies. In 1986 Corfield cofounded Frame Technology, a leading desktop publishing software company, which was sold to Adobe Systems in 1995. During his tenure at Frame, Corfield served at CTO, board member and principal architect of the FrameMaker product line. FrameMaker's ability to support massive documents over a variety of publishing platforms catapulted the product to the leading spot in its category. Corfield currently holds various advisory and board positions, serving on the board of VIP Calling, Inc. and the advisory boards of OnDemand, Inc., Tumbleweed Corp., and Jump Software. In addition, Charles Corfield serves on the board of directors of Cambridge University. He is on the university's committee for the development of a new mathematical sciences pavilion. [press.liberate.com 1999-02-16]

[To top/bottom of page] Article by David Murray on the history of FrameMaker

Thanks to the mail from David Hemmendinger (Associate Editor-in-chief, IEEE Annals of the History of Computing) from 2019-08-19 I can present a link to this article which will appear in the 2019 July-Sept issue of the IEEE Annals of the History of Computing.

Abstract — Frame Technology became a leading provider of technical publishing software within two years of its founding in1986. Frame went public in February 1992, and by the end of that year, its flagship software, FrameMaker, ran on Apple Macintosh, Microsoft Windows, and all of the leading Unix workstations of that era. It was used by thousands of high tech companies around the globe. The company was acquired by Adobe Systems in 1995 at a valuation of approximately $500 million. This article is a personal remembrance by the founder who co-wrote FrameMaker 1.0 and lead Frame's product designand product strategy through its IPO. It tells Frame's founding story and describes the key product and architectural features that contributed to its success. The article also briefly describes Frame's early funding model, business and sales strategies, and culture.

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[To top/bottom of page] How many users of FrameMaker ?

When trying to count FrameMaker users, keep in mind that Shared Licenses (on UNIX) are really shared. Even personal licenses may be assigned to an individual login (on Windows, UNIX) shared by some users.

[1997-03] The «Adobe Systems Frame Business Unit Backgrounder» reports more than 450 000 users worldwide. In those times Unix was a widely used platform and also MacIntosh provided a sound user base.

[2007-05-10] One don't get figures from the sales people. Just to give you an impression, the SOCIETY FOR TECHNICAL COMMUNICATION Eastern Ontario Chapter lists on its web page 182 people, from which only 50 report their used tools. FrameMaker is used by 40 which is about 80%. It can be assumed that also those which have not reported their tools, also use FM - hence this user group of 182 can well hold 145 FM-users.
Since 2003 the number of members had decreased from 236 to 182.

[2007-05-10 Alan Houser, groupwellesley.com] At the 1999 FrameUsers Conference in Minneapolis, somebody posed this question to Adobe cofounder and then-CEO John Warnock in a public Q/A session. He responded that FrameMaker had "about a half-million" installed seats worldwide.
This information is a bit old, but it is the only public disclosure of FrameMaker's installed base that I have ever encountered.

[2007-05-11 Maxwell Hoffmann, translate.com] When I left Frame Tech in 1994, internal metrics and intelligent speculation put the total number of worldwide licenses at around 300K. With Warnock's listing of 500K 5 years later, you could assume liberal growth of 40,000 licenses per year which would put the probable current figure at an additional 280,000 licenses for a total of 780,000. If you cut the growth figure in half to be conservative, the total number of licenses is probably 640,000.
I think 650,000 total licenses would be a safe, conservative figure.
When I worked at Frame Tech and many of the licenses sold were still UNIX (the PC was taking off by 1993), Frame estimated that only about 15% of users actually registered their licenses. I don't know what the reg rate is for Adobe, but that is one of the reasons that it is very challenging for a vendor to have accurate figures on actual numbers of licenses in use.

[2018-09-06] Since those days the registration is forced by licensing servers. You can not run FM without licensing it at installation time. You need to have an Adobe ID for this kind of installation.

[2019-10-08] A marketing mail sent to me reads (translated from German by www.DeepL.com):
We let the figures speak for themselves: more than 700,000 users in over 30,000 companies.
Companies around the world can see measurable benefits in authoring and publishing workflows by switching to Adobe FrameMaker. Version 2019 offers a new 64-bit architecture, up to 65% faster publishing, a sophisticated XML/DITA workspace, and more.
Our experts will be happy to tell you how FrameMaker 2019 will benefit your organization.

[To top/bottom of page] 2011 - 25th anniversary of FrameMaker

This text is a copy from that on Content Wrangler site as of June 2017.

1) PO'ed: PO [slang] = pissed off, upset [back to text]

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