3di is migrating a series of user guides from FrameMaker to Flare as part of a single sourcing strategy for a client.
The migration process is well integrated in Flare, but a few additions to the standard process make the operation smoother.
This article describes some of preparatory steps in FrameMaker that make migration as painless as possible, and some of the loose ends that need tidying up in Flare once the content has been imported.
Moving content from FrameMaker to Flare
Before importing the FrameMaker documents into Flare, we have to ensure the content is consistent to smooth out the import process. First, the styles used in the book need to be consistent throughout, and any manual formatting (that means not a defined Style) should be removed. This will trim down the number of associations you have to make when you come to import.
Topic Break Markers
When Flare imports FrameMaker files, topic file names are automatically generated from the text of the heading where the topic starts. This can result in a lot of topics with very similar names – perhaps differing only by a number – which takes time and effort to correct topic-by-topic in Flare.
Inserting Custom Markers in the source FrameMaker document controls the file names that Flare will apply to the imported topics.
At the heading where each new topic will start, insert a ‘Filename’ marker at the start of the paragraph in the FrameMaker document. Flare uses this marker text as the name of the topic file on import.
A common reason for migrating to Flare is its increased functionality. Where these are to be used to enhance FrameMaker styles, you need to mark their location in the topic to make the import process easier.
The FrameMaker template used tables for formatting elements. In Flare, we use tags instead. These are held in Flare snippets to ensure the desired presentation every time.
Table styles from FrameMaker can’t be associated in the import process on migrating to Flare. We insert placeholder text in the FrameMaker document to indicate where the snippets would appear in the Flare topic.
Flare migrates documents using an import file (.flimp). There are a large number of settings and here I’ll highlight just a few.
- “New topic styles” are the styles in FrameMaker that were given topic break markers above.
- “Avoid Creating Empty Topics” means that lone headings are not separated from their sub-headings. Where this occurs, Flare uses the latter Filename marker to name the file. This can be confusing as files are named for, say, the first section heading rather than the chapter heading. To avoid this, make sure that “Avoid Creating Empty Topics ” is not selected.
- “Don’t Preserve FrameMaker Styles” avoids the auto-generation of surplus styles. No matter how clean the FrameMaker document appears to be, we find that Flare is inconsistent in the way it detects styles being imported from FrameMaker.
Once the import process has run, imported content needs to be tidied up to produce a finished document:
- Placeholders: replaced with the new content; snippets can be dragged and dropped into the topics
- Table styles: reapplied throughout
- Cross-reference and numbered list styles: reapplied to make sure the formatting and auto-text is displayed correctly
The most painful part is now over, and the benefits of a great UI and a topic-based, multiple-output XHTML editor are your reward!