Tips and Tricks: FrameMaker 12 Templates

You can easily find a pretty broad collection of tips and tricks floating around online that help you build FrameMaker 12 templates. To ensure I don’t (or do) reuse what others have done, I’m writing this article blindfolded, in the dark, with both hands tied behind my back. Figuratively. I’ve chosen to write it on a high wire without the safety net that we call the Internet.

All the tips come from my own personal list of things that I like to do when building a template. While I will talk about FrameMaker, many of these tips apply to other tools (like, for example, Microsoft Word).

Page Size

templates_custom-blankSounds easy, right? And it is, but if you don’t perform this one simple trick (like those experts in my spam folder keep telling me) early, you end up messing up a lot of little things. The trick? Make sure you set your page size right, and do so right away, at the start.

The VERY first thing to do is understand your page size. Margins, header/footer offsets, and just about anything else you build depends on the page size. But to really understand the page size, get a sheet of paper the size of the page you are creating. Physically seeing what you are about to work with makes a big difference.

  1. Select File > New > Document.
  2. Click Custom.
    (I KNOW that Portrait or Landscape are tempting, but don’t do it.)
  3. Set up the dialog with all your dimensions, columns, pagination, and other settings.
  4. Click Create.

Bonus Tip: Select View > Options as soon as you create a page and review the settings. May as well get that pesky configuration out of the way early.

Configure the Defaults

There are a bunch of things you can configure, not the least of which is the PDF output (see Tips And Tricks for FrameMaker 12, in which I talk about those). However, every good template has a lot of setup that a user hardly ever sees. Let’s go fix some of the document level properties.

Default Reference Pages

FrameMaker includes a bunch of default reference pages. This is good as a starting point if you happen to want to, ummmm, save your FrameMaker content to HTML. Or use the “Frame Above/Below” features of the Paragraph Designer (okay, I’ll give you that one, as people use the first of the reference pages every now and then).

Most of us likely aren’t using the HTML based reference pages anymore, so you can delete them and free up both resources (make files smaller), and the sanity of those who come later (“So, Vick, any ideas why those pages are in there? No? Me neither, but hey, let’s keep them just in case.”)

  1. Select View > Reference Pages.
  2. Scroll through them and delete anything that has the HTML, HTML(cont), or Headings
    Unsure how to delete them? Check the Special menu to delete specific reference pages.

templates_text-optionsText Options

You can control the appearance of quotation marks, spacing (single or multiple, and if a space can start a paragraph), what characters allow line breaks, and even the appearance of Superscript, Subscript, and Small Caps in your text.

  1. Select Format > Document > Text Options.
  2. Configure the dialog as required.

Document-level Metadata

Metadata is additional information about a FrameMaker source file or book that is transferred to the PDF document when converted using the Adobe Distiller. It also provides background on the file that is currently open, so you may as well put some information in there by default (and remind users of the template to update it).

  1. Open a single file, or a book.
  2. Select File > File Info.
  3. Populate the fields as required.
  4. Save the file as an Adobe PDF.
  5. Review the metadata in the file, or as part of the file properties.

What You See is What You See (most of the time)

Odds are the phrase WYSIWYG makes some sense. If not, here’s a link to help: www.google.com

FrameMaker has a lot of stuff you see (and some that is hidden) that you need to set in the template. The best way to set this information up work with a bit of sample content (a few paragraphs in unstructured FrameMaker, or a couple of elements and content in structured FrameMaker), so you can clearly see the impact your changes make.

  1. Select View.
  2. Select (or deselect) options like Borders, Rulers, Text Symbols, Gridlines, and Line Numbers and see if you like the results.
    If so, keep them active, and if not, deselect them.
  3. For structured files, also select (or deselect) option like Element Boundaries, Element Boundaries (as Tags), and Element Banner Text.
  4. For structured files, also configure the Attribute Display Options

templates_new-elementsConfigure What Happens When Inserting Elements (with attributes)

In structured FrameMaker, when new elements are inserted, a dialog may appear that prompts you in regards to attributes. Personally, it drives me nuts when I’m prompted for attributes EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I. INSERT. AN. ELEMENT. And, if you are like me, then you likely want to disable that.

  1. Select Element > New Element Options.
  2. Configure the options as you see fit.
    I almost always select Prompt for Required Attribute Values, and I usually leave the Initial Structure

Table Defaults

One last template trick to leave you with. When you insert a table, you see a bunch of default options. The number of rows, columns, and even the types of paragraph tags that appear in a table. Since the values for that have to come from somewhere, why don’t you control it? Now you can!

  1. Create an ideal table.
    That means you create it, add headers or footers, size the columns, apply paragraph tags to the first row of content, and basically do all that manual stuff that the Table Designer won’t control.
  2. Open the Table Designer.
  3. Click Update All.
    This takes a “snapshot” of the current table, including the stuff you configured in step 1. It then becomes a part of the table properties.
  4. Insert a second table of the same type and note the change in the content/format of the table.

If FrameMaker is the center of your tech comm universe, I’d like to invite you to register for my upcoming webinar on FrameMaker Templates. Or contact me at Publishing Smarter to learn more about training in FM and other services.

Bernard Aschwanden

Since 1992, Bernard Aschwanden has excelled in technical communications as a trainer, courseware developer, team leader, manager, and as a consultant for Publishing Smarter. Bernard is a professor at Seneca and Humber colleges, sitting on their advisory boards, and helping drive curriculum development. He has written many articles about publishing, and is an active partner with key developers of technical communications tools. Bernard also serves on the Board of Directors for the Society for Technical Communication.

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