RE: Ventura, FrameMaker, ...

Subject: RE: Ventura, FrameMaker, ...
From: Dan Emory <danemory -at- primenet -dot- com>
To: "Elliott C. Evans" <eeyore+ -at- cmu -dot- edu>, "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 29 Sep 2000 14:59:38 -0700

At 02:49 PM 9/29/00 -0400, Elliott C. Evans wrote:

FrameMaker has had a release every two years, for almost ten years.
If you're complaining that it took four years to get from 5.0 to 6.0
due to the 5.5 release, personally I prefer bug fixes to creeping
featurism. I would also point out that other software programs have
had full-number releases with fewer new features than the jump from
FM5.0 to FM5.5.

FM5.0, a new major release, was issued by Frame Technology in 1995.
A number of major improvements were made. Also, the on-line and printed
documentation was outstanding.

FM5.1 and V5.1.1 were released in late 1995 by Frame Technology. V5.1.1's
main purpose was to make the product compatible with Windows 9x. Several bugs
were fixed. V5.1 and V5.1.1 were the most stable and bug-free releases of the product
before or since.

FM5.5 was released by Adobe in September 1997.Virtually all of the development
budget was spent on double-byte, whose sole purpose was to increase
market penetration in the Asian market. Adobe also added the Hot Tamale
HTML product, which, given its severe anemia, served mainly as a rigged
demo tool for Adobe salespeople. In actual use it was a turkey.

Other than that, the few added features in V5.5 were mere frills. A few minor bugs
in FM5.1 were fixed. Despite these modest improvements, FM5.5 had more
bugs than Starship Troopers. One Beta test facility identified more than
300 bugs which were not present in FM5.1, many of them showstoppers.
Adobe, over the next 4-6 months, had to issue three consecutive bug
releases (5.5.1, 5.5.2, 5.5.3), yet there were still a number of new bugs
that remained unfixed. Also, with the introduction of V5.5, the quality and
completeness of the online and printed documentation declined precipitously.

FM5.5.6 was released by Adobe in December 1998. The major new features
were an anemic XML export capability that hardly anyone uses, a Word 97
filter, improved graphic filters, and a bunch of free postscript fonts.
The main purpose, however, was to fix the large number of remaining bugs
that were introduced in the 5.5 release. Although it was nothing more than
a delayed a bug release, we had to pay a sizable "upgrade" price to obtain it.

Now, 5-1/2 years after the last major release (5.0) Adobe has issued FM6.0,
whose main claim to "majorness" is a set of book-level functions, most
of which were already available as FrameScripts. Oh, and then Adobe
also threw in----tra da---Webworks Publisher "Standard Edition," better
known as WWP Lite, which is virtually useless. If you want to use
FM6.0 to produce half-way decent HTML, you must shell out an
additional $600 or so (more if you need tech support) for WWP Pro
(or buy,Omni System's MIF2GO, which is better and cheaper).

If you had FM+SGML 5.1 and purchased the V5.5, V5.5.6, and V6.0
upgrades, you've shelled out approximately $1000, plus
another $1000 or so to buy WWP Pro (including upgrades and
tech support), yet, other than the XML export capability, there was
virtually no improvement in the structured document capabilities of the
FM+SGML product. In fact, a couple of nifty features in V5.1
have been weakened, and a number of new (and unfixed)
bugs have been added along the way.

I still rely upon the V5.1 FM+SGML printed documentation, because
it is much more comprehensive (300 more pages) and better than
that provided with later releases.

I realize I sound a little belligerent here. I'm a known FM bigot,
and I don't like to see people taking cheap shots at it. There are
plenty of valid criticisms, but release schedule is not one of them.

Cheap shots are one thing. Facts, as summarized above, are
another. Release schedule is not the issue, but the content
and quality of those releases is an issue.

The only developmentally costly new feature added
by Adobe over the 5-1/2 years since V5.0 was released
was double-byte, which hardly anyone outside of Asia needs.
That development money should have been spent on a full
implementation of Unicode in FrameMaker.

Over the last 5-1/2 years users have submitted large numbers of
enhancement requests to Adobe, many of them vitally needed,
and Adobe has ignored almost every single one of them.

The FrameMaker code is now well over 10 years old. At this
point, the code probably resembles spaghetti. Unless there is
a major change in Adobe's philosophy, the likelihood of anything
more than minor cosmetic improvements in the future is almost nil.

The best thing Adobe could do for the installed user base is to
announce now that it will not issue any new major releases of
FrameMaker. This would unfetter the third-party developer
community, which could proceed to develop new enhancement
products with the assurance that their investment will not
be wiped out by a new Adobe release that incorporates those

If Adobe were to announce that decision soon, before the
installed base begins to erode, it might be possible, through
third-party enhancements, to extend the life of the Frame
product line for another 5 years or so. This would also
help Adobe's bottom line, because any license sales
during that period would be pure gravy.

| Nullius in Verba |
Dan Emory, Dan Emory & Associates
FrameMaker/FrameMaker+SGML Document Design & Database Publishing
Voice/Fax: 949-722-8971 E-Mail: danemory -at- primenet -dot- com
10044 Adams Ave. #208, Huntington Beach, CA 92646
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