Technical Editors' Eyrie Photo of Osprey
Resources for technical editors Home page About technical editing Books Tips, techniques and checklists Links to other resources Newsletter archives Site index Search this site Business basics: marketing, website development, and more

Marking and tracking changes in Adobe FrameMaker

Many people have used the "revision" tools found in Microsoft Word, Lotus WordPro, WordPerfect and other word processors to track changes made to a document by editors and reviewers. I asked a FrameMaker users' list how to do something similar in FrameMaker.

Experienced FrameMaker users recommend that you do not attempt to mark insertions and deletions using FrameMaker itself. You can do so (I'll explain how in a moment), but the process is tedious.

If your organization, author or client requires an audit trail of all editorial changes you have made, or wants to be able to accept or reject each changes, you have several choices.

1) Edit substantively before the layout phase, using a word processor if possible
You know that you should be making substantive edits as early as possible in the document's development, because this makes everyone's job easier (no matter what word processor or page layout program they are using). When using FrameMaker, PageMaker or other page layout programs, you should also copy edit (and reviewers should conduct their reviews) before page layout.
Most publishers, and many other organizations, use a word processor during the writing, review and editing phase, and only when the text has been finalized is it brought into a page layout program such as FrameMaker.
Using this model, writers keep illustrations in separate files (which the editor and reviewer can view, and possibly change, using the graphics program used to create them) and include figure captions in the word-processor files. The writer can also indicate any text intended to be laid out in boxes, set in a different font, or handled in any special way, by applying specific paragraph or character styles in the word processor file.
You can then edit the file using the word-processor's revision tools (and technical reviewers can do the same). If major changes have been made, you may need to copy-edit the resulting file; again, do this in the word processor.
After editing and reviewing is complete, and the writer and graphic artist have made any necessary changes, the layout person brings all the pieces together into the final document.
After layout, you or another editor should proofread the text and do a production edit, looking for layout problems.
2) Save FrameMaker files as RTF for editing
If you don't have the opportunity to edit the files before page layout (for example, many writers in software development environments do their writing and page layout at the same time), you can work on an RTF file (produced from the FrameMaker file) in a word processor. You may lose some formatting this way, but for substantive editing and copy editing, formatting should not matter. (You may want to have a PDF file to examine, but make your editorial changes in the RTF file.)
FrameMarker users recommend that you use the MIF2RTF filter (available from Omni Systems Inc, ), which does a very good job of Frame to Word (much better than Frame's native RTF export) and is highly customizable. Going the other way may not work quite so well is still workable if the document isn't too complex.
The writer can then accept or reject the changes in the RTF file. Depending on the complexity of the document, the writer may be able to bring the edited file back into FrameMaker, or may need to cut-and-paste or retype the changes into the original FrameMaker file. This process can be a bit time- consuming, but no more so than the old-fashioned way of having the editor mark changes on paper and the writer transfers those changes to the file.
3) Edit in FrameMaker and use the document comparison facility
If you're mainly copy-editing and not expected (or not permitted) to make major structural changes in the document, you can edit a copy of the file within FrameMaker without attempting to mark your changes. You could use FM "markers" to indicate where the changes are and the reasons for them.
The writer can then use the document comparison facility to generate a file showing insertions and deletions, and a report summarising them.
This facilty can have problems, especially if major changes have been made to the file, so it isn't always a good choice.
4) Use conditional text
You can use conditional text to mark insertions and deletions, but it's cumbersome and not automatic.
5) Edit a PDF file
Adobe Acrobat 4 has more extensive editing and commenting facilities than Acrobat 3, but the writer will have to copy into the FM file anything you mark up in the PDF. This technique can be useful for layout and production edits, and is a good electronic substitute for marking up paper, but you must have a copy of Acrobat Exchange, part of the full Adobe Acrobat suite.

Using the document comparison facility

Use FrameMaker 5.5.6 or later. This version has the most bug fixes to the document comparison facility.

After the editor makes changes to the document, the writer can run Document Compare, comparing the original document to the editor's. The Document Compare utility supplies two new documents informing you of the editor's changes:

The writer can then choose to accept some or all of the changes the editor has made.

Using conditional text

To use Conditional Text, the writer or editor needs to create condition tags, which the editor then applies manually to the inserted and deleted text and comments. This method allows a few more options. For example, if you have multiple reviewers of the same document, you can create tags such as Jean-Deleted, Jean-Inserted, Jean-Comment, Sandra-Deleted, Sandra-Inserted, Sandra-Comment, and so on.

Inserting comments and questions

You can insert comments or questions to the author in two ways:

Use the Comment marker, or create a new marker specifically for your comments
Your comments won't show in the text (only the marker will show), and thus they won't affect the page layout, but the author can search for and read them. The author can also generate a collection of comments (hyperlinked to the place they occur) and print them for a permanent record.
Use a Comment condition tag, or create a new condition tag specifically for your comments.
Your comments will show in the text if the Comment condition tag is set to Show. The comments will therefore affect the page layout when they are shown.

A follow-up article is here: