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E-mail snippets concerning the history of FrameMaker

I got permission from the authors of these mails to publish them here.

2007-03-22 "Maxwell Hoffmann" <mhoffmann#translate.com>

I know that the original posting was about "Frame's future", but I wanted to make these comments about "Frame's past" which has so much to do with why the product is still with us today and will be with us tomorrow.

I was lucky enough to be Frame Technology's employee number 66, and got to work closely with the founders in the early days (V1.75 through V4). Founder Charles Corefield was intrigued by Macintosh HyperCard and had an epiphany of sorts. His initial goal of creating an authoring tool that worked with hypertext lead to FrameMaker as we know it. As luck and fate would have it, the SUN UNIX workstation was the easiest for a developer to obtain at that time. Since SUN MICROSYSTEMS was also one of Frame's earliest customers, from the "get-go" FrameMaker was designed to work with high-volume publishing with "many pages, many times."

The product's birth on UNIX also led to simultaneous page layout, word processing and graphics editing years before multi-tasking on the MAC or PC. This also placed the product firmly in the world of tech pubs. As you "old timers" will recall, FrameMaker was about the last product on the planet to come out with a tables editor, so it had to be "the best of breed." Founder David Murray worked on that code for over a year, and table features in FrameMaker are still years ahead of their time. (Who else can change table styles that easily by importing a template?)

At a 1993 FrameMaker product launch, Frame Tech displayed a live network that linked Sun UNIX, SCO OS on a PC, Windows, a MAC and some other flavor of UNIX workstation that I can't recall. We edited the same document remotely from a single server on each workstation, because FrameMaker had one binary format. No "save as" required. Not one member of the press "got it" or understood the importance of a true "multi-platform" file format! (I made one skeptical member of the press do the demo himself and insert his grandmother's maiden name; he still thought the documents were fake.)

Frame Tech gambled with SGML, creating "FrameBuilder", and that prototype led to the structured editor that makes XML publishing so easy today with structured FrameMaker.

Ironically, UNIX conventions and quirks led to many of the design UI "nuisances" that some of us complain about today. (Like, how long will we have to look at those "building blocks" for automatic numbering?) But the founders and early developers of FrameMaker were a very rare group of people who came together at the right time, for the right product and the right reasons. The underlying "purpose" of the product has remained true for nearly 21 years, and this is why FrameMaker is still such a significant force in the market today. My company does language translation, and 75-80% of our customer technical documents are in FrameMaker; many started out in Word before they came to us.

I should have made this posting in April of 2006 on the product's 20th anniversary, but here is a belated "thank you" to the visionary Frame founders: Charles Corefield, Steve Kirsch, David Murray and Vicky Blakesly. Your work lives on!

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