The Electronic Labyrinth


FrameMaker 3.0 ($800) is a high-end desktop publishing package. Its linking features and a reader module make it relevant to this study. FrameMaker is available in more than two dozen environments including Apple (4 MB RAM recommended) and Microsoft Windows (8 MB RAM recommended). All configurations require hefty hardware; the Windows system needs 15 MB of disk space, an 80386 or better processor, and VGA or better graphics.

FrameMaker provides an excellent array of text and graphics abilities. From file formats (17 graphics, 18 text including DCA), to page formatting (complete table support, mixed width columns), to font support (four to 400 points, auto and manual kerning), it's all here. One can draw freehand curves; group, move, and resize objects; search and replace for tags and markers; spell-check with a 130,000-word dictionary (in eleven languages); share files on a LAN; and zoom from 25% to 1600%, in 1% increments. Not only can one lay out complicated equations, but at the touch of a mouse FrameMaker will solve them!

Of particular interest is the ability to generate tables of contents, indices, and other lists across multiple documents. "See Also" references are updated automatically. In this way, hypertext links may be implemented, though it was not evident how to accomplish this in the working copy we had access to. Though it is well designed, FrameMaker's depth makes a manual essential; this is not provided with the evaluation version.

Authors will be intrigued by the ability to create multiple versions of a document through the use of conditional text. Text and graphics may be tagged so as to allow inclusion as the user sees fit. The classic example of a document which could use this ability is the price list. For distribution within the company, the cost column would be included; for external distribution, it would be suppressed. Only a little imagination is needed to see how this technique might be used in a narrative.

FrameMaker documents may be distributed electronically in read-only form by using FrameViewer (UNIX platforms), or FrameReader (Apple and Windows). FrameReader allows multiple resizable and zoomable windows with hypertext links and print functions. It is priced on a sliding scale according to volume, with initial readers being $90 each. The hardware and memory requirements are much more modest than FrameMaker itself.

This product is obviously designed for corporate clients. Its pricing and hardware requirements make it unsuitable for book circulation. However, it is an order of magnitude cheaper than other EDD solutions, without sacrificing any features. The only limitation we could find in our limited examination was the inability to rotate text at other than 90 degree increments.

Frame Technology Corp.
1010 Rincon Circle
San Jose, CA

Phone: 800-843-7263 x880 408-433-3311

Frame International Ltd.
Unit 52 Airways Industrial Estate
Dublin, Ireland

Phone: 353-1-429-566

© 1993-2000 Christopher Keep, Tim McLaughlin, Robin Parmar.
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