FrameMaker

From Academic Kids

Adobe FrameMaker is a desktop publishing and Help authoring application published by Adobe Systems. It is especially suited for creating long technical documents.

History

A mathematician alumnus from the University of Cambridge named Charles Corfield decided to write a WYSIWYG document editor on a Sun 2 workstation because such software didn't exist.

The prototype version of FrameMaker caught the eyes of salesmen at the fledgling Sun Microsystems, which lacked commercial applications to showcase the graphics capabilities of their workstations. They got permission from Corfield to use the prototype as a demoware for their computers, and hence, the primitive FrameMaker received plenty of exposure in the Unix workstation arena.

Steve Kirsch saw the demo and realized the potential of the product. Kirsch used the money he earned from Mouse Systems to fund a startup company, Frame Technology Corp., to commercialize the software.

Originally written for SunOS (a variant of UNIX) on Sun 3 machines, FrameMaker was a popular technical writing tool, and the company was profitable early on. Due to the flourishing desktop publishing market on the Apple Macintosh, the software was ported to the Mac as the second platform.

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.

At the height of its success, FrameMaker ran on more than thirteen UNIX platforms including NeXT Computer's NeXTSTEP and IBM's AIX operating systems. The NeXT and AIX version of FrameMaker used Display PostScript technology while all other UNIX versions used the X Window System-Motif windowing environment.

Sun Microsystems and AT&T tried to push the OpenLook GUI standards to win over Motif, so Sun contracted Frame Technology to implement a version of FrameMaker on their PostScript-based NeWS windowing system. The NeWS version of FrameMaker was successfully released to NSA, which was among the first few customers adopting the OpenLook standards.

At this point, FrameMaker was an extraordinarily good product for its day, enabling authors to produce highly structured documents with relative ease, but also giving users a great deal of typographical control in a reasonably intuitive and totally WYSIWYG way. The output documents could be of very high typographical quality.

Frame Technology later ported FrameMaker to Microsoft Windows, but the company lost direction soon after its release. Up to this point, FrameMaker had been targetting a professional market for highly technical publications, such as the maintenance manuals for the Boeing 777 project, and licensed each copy for $2,500. But the Windows version brought the product to the $500 price range which cannibalized its own non-Windows customer base.

The company's attempt to sell sophisticated technical publishing software to the home DTP market was a disaster. A tool designed for a 1000 page manual was too cumbersome and difficult for an average home user to type a one page letter. (And despite some initially enthusiastic users, FrameMaker never really took off in the academic market because of the company's refusal e.g. to give proper support to footnotes and endnotes, or to improve the equation editor.)

Sales plummeted and brought the company to the verge of bankruptcy. After several rounds of layoffs, the company was stripped to the bare bones.

Adobe Systems acquired the product and returned the focus to the professional market. Today, Adobe FrameMaker is still a widely used publication tool for technical writers, although no version has been released for the Mac OS X operating system, further limiting use of the product.

There were several major competitors in the technical publishing market such as Interleaf etc. None of those products survived the influence of Microsoft Word except FrameMaker.

External links

ja:Adobe FrameMaker

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