Tuesday, October 6, 2009

FrameMaker Users Network - 24 Sept 2009

There was a time when a Google search for DITA had to specify at least a couple of the words from the acronym to avoid getting hits for a certain American contemporary burlesque artist who used to be hooked up with a certain American musician who derives his stage name from a film actress and a convicted murderer (also Americans).

Recently I did the search and the result for the Darwin Information Type Architecture comes in ahead of that other one, so searching from a work computer for information on DITA is a little safer than it used to be.

DITA – or more accurately, Adobe FrameMaker and DITA was the subject of the first half of the latest FrameMaker Users Network (FUN) meeting held on September 24 at Front Runner. This portion was presented by Tim Grantham, Front Runner’s DITA Program Manager and a long-time participant in the Toronto technical communication scene.

Per FM’s Wikipedia entry, Version 9 was released in January 2009 and, among other things, brought with it full support for DITA and a new user interface that’s aligned more closely to those of other Adobe applications such as Photoshop and Illustrator.

Tim introduced himself and took us through Front Runner’s DITA curriculum and some background of DITA and what’s happening with it currently. He then gave us a tour of FM 9, highlighting some changes from the previous version as well as talking in more detail about the enhanced support for DITA.

Tim was followed by Mark James from Adobe Canada, whose portion of the evening focused on the latest version of Adobe Acrobat 9.

While text and graphics are familiar features within a PDF document, Acrobat 9 now has the ability to display – and allow you to interact with – 3D models and Flash animations directly inside the PDF.

Mark also introduced us to Acrobat Portfolios the Packages feature in Acrobat 8, used for combining PDFs into a single document. Acrobat 9 gives you more ways to organize and present the PDF documents in a user-friendly way.

I checked in with a couple of other people at the FUN meeting (thanks Kimberley and Mary Ellen) and asked them for their impressions of the event. They thought the following points were particularly valuable:

  • Upcoming releases for DITA 1.2 and 1.3.

  • The inclusion of more topic types in the upcoming releases

  • Caveats and workarounds re: getting PDF output from FM 9 and DITA.

  • How you can incorporate 3-D models within PDF documents.

  • The Portfolio feature, which looks particularly useful for RFPs and presenting information to senior management.

  • The ability to incorporate Adobe Flash material in PDFs.

They said the presentations would have been of particular interest to technical communication practitioners and managers who are:

  • familiar with DITA and/or FrameMaker, especially those considering the upgrade to Version 9.

  • looking for new ways to use Adobe Acrobat to present technical information in structured, accessible, and interactive ways.

Based on the evening’s content, they were interested in finding out more about:

  • Front Runner’s DITA training.

  • cross-platform capabilities with the Flash and Acrobat Portfolio options, particularly how to incorporate these “wow” features to “wow” audiences.

Thank you to Tim, Mark, and the Front-Runner team for another FUN evening.