Nov 1, 2011 1:15 PM
Our company uses FrameMaker 7.1 on a steroidal mixture of plugins, Autohotkey scripts, and a home-made toolbar. After trying a demo of FrameMaker 10, we decided not to purchase it. In fact, we were rather shocked at how poorly it was designed.
Here is a list of the grievances that changed our minds:
Thanks to the new interface, there is no colored title bar at the top of the screen (you know, the bar that sort of greys out when the window is inactive?). Since the bar won't change color to reflect whether or not the window is active (it's unvarying silver), you can never tell if the FrameMaker window is active or not. Okay, you can look at whether or not the little red X button in the corner is red or grey, but this just doesn't cut it. When you want to activate the FrameMaker window, you reach automatically for the title bar to click it, only to discover that the title bar is filled up with buttons that will do things if you click on them. So then you divert at the last second and click somewhere in the middle of the document instead. We all learned not to do this early on because if you click in the middle of any open program window you'll probably hit some important button. But with effort and diligence you will unlearn years of experience.
If you make the FrameMaker window halfsize and then try to resize it by dragging the edges of the windows, you'll find that you can resize the left, right and bottom edges, but NOT the top edge. It is astounding that any modern program produced by a major company could lack such basic functionality. And of course, because the title bar is gone, the address display (which used to show the location of the FrameMaker file you were working on) is also gone. The file address now displays as a tooltip that pops up when you hover your mouse over a tab, conveniently blocking the bottom row of most-used editing buttons for 3-4 seconds. The address tooltips will also pop up on top of open menus, hiding the option you are looking for and generally making a nuisance of themselves. The small, closely spaced "File" "Edit" "Format" "View" options that took up so little space in FrameMaker 7.1 are now displayed in a larger font and at more widely spaced intervals so that menus which used to take up half of my header bar now take up two thirds of it. If you work in structured mode and have plugins installed which add extra menu items to the header bar (I have two), you will discover that the FrameMaker window becomes hard to grab and drag if you shrink it down so that it occupies, say, the left half of your monitor. This is because with two extra menus there is only about one square centimeter of free space to click on if you wish to drag said window around the screen; the rest of the grabbable surface is taken up by workspace rearrangement buttons and the new grande-sized menus. The new "header bar" isn't just broad either--it's tall, nearly twice as tall as the old bar that held the "File, Edit, etc." buttons. So apparently Adobe got rid of the title bar just so that they could add extra padding to the "header bar" and give you more space to click on the File button. (On a side note, my own private gripe with the new header bar is that the unique "close, restore down, minimize" buttons in the upper right hand corner of the screen interfere with my 3rd party double monitor software, which normally adds two window management buttons to "move window to other screen" and "maximize window across both desktops." The multimonitor buttons cover up the aesthetically pleasing but nonstandard FrameMaker buttons so that I can no longer minimize FrameMaker normally.)
The FrameMaker 10 interface is colored a grim battleship grey. It is ugly, unfriendly, and wears on the eyes...not unlike the interior of a submarine, except that they started adding color to submarine interiors because they discovered that it wore people's eyes out and demoralized them. Someday we will be able to tell our children that all we had was black and white FrameMaker. In the meantime, it is now harder to tell buttons apart and instant recognition may take awhile to develop. Happy hunting?
There is a ghastly waste of space everywhere. Nearly an inch of seldom-used buttons has been added to the bottom of the paragraph catalogue. This should have been compressed into a one-button "Options" menu. The paragraph designer is fatter and taller than its predecessor, and most of that space is blank. Below each set of paragraph controls there is .5 to 1 inches of nothing. Why the extra padding? Because paragraph designer now must be the same size as the character designer and table designer, since it is supposed to share a common window with them. (Problem: I use the paragraph designer every few minutes, table designer every few hours, and character designer every few days. So in essence the functionality of the most important piece of the system has been sacrificed to accomodate the least important part of it.) You can of course remove paragraph designer from its fellow designers and make it is own separate window again, but this won't get rid of the extra unused space at the bottom and no, you can't resize it. The graphics toolbar too is chubbier for no apparent reason. The Find/Change dialogue box is twice as big as it used to be and the only added functionality is one circular fill-in bubble and word "Map." The Marker dialogue is one third again larger. Now we see why FrameMaker needs a "ui visibility" button that toggles on and off the docked user interface so that you can catch a glimpse of the document or actually do some (gasp) typing. There should probably be a tooltip on the "ui visibility" button to advise the user to turn off the UI if they begin to experience the sensation that the walls are closing in on them.
Where FrameMaker is not too fat, it's too lean. In several high traffic clicking areas the clickable space has been skimped, making it hard and slow to click on the thing you want. If you have to use fine motor control to click a button, then it's too small to be convenient/fast and will be avoided by the user unless necessity compels. And unfortunately, FrameMaker 10 does compel. Paragraph designer no longer has nice, big, easy-to-click tabs. They've been replaced by tiny, hard to click buttons that float in an ocean of unused screen space. (On a side note, there is also a slight loadup lag when you click each button. The Basic and Font buttons are slowest to load, but the hang is there for all of them. Apparently FrameMaker 7.1 = broadband and FrameMaker 10 = dialup.) The document browsing tabs, a truly heavenly feature, are too thin, and their "close" buttons are way too small. The tabs should have the exact same size, style and features as those in Firefox or that other big-name commercial product everybody used to use before the designers got complacent and lost their market share, Internet Explorer. The title bar for undocked palettes is also too thin, particularly for undocked palettes that have been collapsed down to icon size. It is almost impossible to grab the title bar on such collapsed icons without activating the "expand" button. Fortunately, the double dotted line intended for moving icons around in toolbars is grabbable and provides an effective substitute.
The document browsing tabs are missing basic functionality. For example, when you have ten tabs open, they should squeeze down to a smaller size and no longer display the entire title of the document. As it is, you can't even access the tabs that have flowed off the left or right sides of the screen unless you use the dropdown box provided at right. I expect at least as much functionality as I can get from an internet browser.
When you hover over the icons they will switch to colorful versions of themselves...except for the Table Catalogue button, which strangely turns into a colorful version of the Table Designer. (Oh, and there's no improved table navigation in FM 10 either.) The marker box's "Edit Marker" button always looks greyed out and inaccessible, even when it isn't.
Sometimes you can't scroll in the frames; for example, the marker and variable lists occasionally will not allow you to browse through them with the scroll wheel. The scroll wheel, while a little better supported than it used to be, still does not honor the properties set for it in the Control Panel--which is to say that for every flick of the scroll wheel, FrameMaker will only shift the document up/down by one line of text. This is an extremely slow rate when you consider that three lines per scroll is the normal speed.
When you click to place your cursor in the document, the normal text selection cursor turns into an arrow, of all things. (Anomalously, you can still select with it.) It will remain that way until you move the mouse left or right, at which point it will turn back into a text selection cursor. But even if you scroll up and down, it will stay an arrow. This behavior makes it inconvenient to select individual letters (say for fixing typos) because the arrow gets in the way and blocks your view of the text. It is also nonstandard behavior for all the text editors I have ever used.
Try this--open the Find/Replace dialogue. Change the selection box from "To Text:" to "To Character Format." The character format dialogue box will box up. Choose something. Click okay...and watch the character format dialogue box disappear along with the whole Find/Replace dialogue! You'll have to open the dialogue up again if you want to search. Basic functionality broken.
If you have a docked window unfurled and you switch focus to a window outside FrameMaker, the docked window will automatically retract, requiring you to open it again when you return to FrameMaker. If you click in the FrameMaker document (say you want to type) while a docked window is open, the docked window will also automatically retract--a bugger if you still wanted to use it. There should be a "Toggle Persistant" checkbox that lets you decide if you want the window to remain open until you close it manually OR to close it automatically after each use.
FrameMaker is a great program, but flaws are carefully being added to it. The reason for this is that the designers do not ever use FrameMaker themselves. The only way to solve this problem is to uninstall all copies of Word and Wordpad from the computers of everyone involved in the FrameMaker design process, then install copies of FrameMaker 10. Let's see how long it takes them to see the light and put back BASIC FUNCTIONALITY.