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Product Review: FrameMaker 5.5.6 for Linux

A New Category for Linux Apps: Desktop Publishing

  • May 8, 2000
  • By Brian Proffitt

You can call it market prospecting. You can call it political rebellion against Microsoft. Whatever you call it, more and more brand-name software companies are starting to shift some of their product lines over to the Linux platform. We, as Linux users new and old, can only benefit by this migration, which started as a trickle and is rapidly approaching a deluge.

Recent entries to this flood of new products for Linux include the WordPerfect Office 2000 suite and now the appearance of a brand-new application type for Linux: a desktop-publishing application as robust as anything you will find on Windows.

Adobe FrameMaker 5.5.6 for Linux was released for public beta earlier this spring and it is giving Linux user the newfound ability to create documents via desktop publishing. This is something that the Linux community sorely needed, especially for the smaller companies who see Linux as a more financially sound investment but still needed something to generate their internal and external documentation.

Desktop Publishing vs. Word Processing
For those of you familiar with FrameMaker, hang on a second, I'll only keep you waiting for the features of the Linux version momentarily. I want to convey a little bit about what desktop publishing (DP) is and why its debut on Linux is such a big deal.

Most of us do not work with DP, not really. There are some DP features within some of the word processors out there on the market, StarOffice being the first to come to mind. But StarOffice is not, by definition, a DP application. It's a word processor, which is really designed to help users create content in a coherent format. It has some capacity to make that content look pretty, but only a little.

In contrast, a DP application has the end result in mind only: putting together a stylish and complete document, be it a brochure or a book. There are some word processing tools thrown in to help with generating the text, but DP is more focused on formatting the content, not creating it.

Enter FrameMaker 5.5.6 for Linux, the first major foray into DP on the Linux platform.

FrameMaker has been around for a long time, both on the Windows and Macintosh platforms. There is even a version available for UNIX machines, so the creation of the Linux version was not that much of a conceptual leap for Adobe, which also has ported the ubiquitous Acrobat Reader to Linux. Based on what I have seen so far, Adobe has made that leap to Linux rather well.

Getting and Installing FrameMaker
FrameMaker, unlike the aforementioned WordPerfect 2000 and its WINE processes, has made a true migration to Linux, so it is taking full advantage of the Linux platform without a lot of pesky baggage. Obtaining this software is easy. The download site itself is a well-put together page that links to the beta .tar, and provides installation instructions and a form for entering personal information to obtain a registration license number. This was a nice change from all the segmented download sites that cycle you through page after page of forms and other hoops just to get the file.

Despite this ease of use, this download will not be for the faint of heart. The main application itself is a 22.6MB file. Add in the separate online manuals, help files, and dictionaries, and that will bring the total to 41MB. If you have a slower connection to the Internet, I suggest allotting a fair amount of time to yank this beast down. This is the only format this beta comes in, too, which is too bad, since those with dial-up connections would benefit from a nominally priced CD version.

After the download, you will need to get a registration number from Adobe by filling out that form I mentioned. Privacy freaks may not like this, but if you want the fully functional app, this is the way to do it. If you are really against providing your info, there is a demo version of FrameMaker that comes in the download. This version functions like the evaluation version, except that the Save functions are disabled. Still, if you just want to look at the application and are leery about forms, you can go this route.

Installation was a piece of cake, as was getting the license key Adobe e-mailed me installed.

I should point out something that was not too clear in the license installation documentation: when you use the fmaddlicense app to enter the registration key, use the username that matches the $HOME directory you placed the Licenses file, which is always in $HOME/fminit. So, if you put /fminit into /root, then the username you provide fmaddlicense should be root as well. Otherwise, you will be perpetually taken to the demo version of FrameMaker instead of the evaluation version you want. As you can guess, this tripped me up for a few minutes.

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