FrameMaker Tutorial:
Introduction & Basics

Developed for advanced documentation students by
David A. McMurrey Thomas A. Moore
Jacqueline Pulido ---

See the FrameMaker resource page for additional study materials. Got a question about this tutorial? Post it in the FrameMaker FAQ

The following tutorial shows you how to open FrameMaker, open a new file, save the file under a new name, enter text, use bold and italics, change fonts and type sizes, change margins and tabs, and perform other basic tasks. Subsequent lessons will focus on templates, tables, tags, graphics, cross-references, book building, variable text, and conversion techniques. These tutorials only get you started; if you have more in-depth needs, see the Adobe FrameMaker User Guide or Adobe FrameMaker Classroom in a Book.

This tutorial is provided for advanced documentation students on a free, as-is basis, without guarantee of accuracy. If you find any errors or think we should include other tasks, let us know!

The tutorial's instructions are based on FrameMaker version 5.5.6 for Windows. You may encounter some minor differences if you are using another version. (The tutorial will note the differences for version 6.0)

Opening FrameMaker

To open the FrameMaker program:
  1. Click on Start (located in the Windows taskbar).

  2. From the Start menu, select Programs.

  3. From the Programs menu, select Adobe.

  4. From the Adobe menu, select FrameMaker 5.5 and then click on Adobe FrameMaker 5.5. (Your FrameMaker version number may be different.)

Opening and Renaming Files

To open a new blank FrameMaker document and save it as your own file:

  1. From the File menu, choose New.

    Note: For the sake of brevity, we use an abbreviated style for menu commands throughout this lesson. For example, "Choose File > New" means "Choose New from the File menu".

    For version 6.0, Choose File > New > Document.

  2. From the New dialog box, click Portrait. This creates a new blank document with the default FrameMaker template. A template is nothing more than a FrameMaker file with a predefined set of formats and page layouts.

    Make a note to yourself to come back and explore the standard templates included with FrameMaker after you finish this lesson. To do this, click Explore Standard Templates from the New dialog box.

  3. Choose File > Save As.

  4. In the File name box, type Intro and click Save.

Changing Simple Text Characteristics

Now enter some text and apply some simple character-level formatting:
  1. In your new document, type some text, any text.

  2. Make some text bold and other text italics. There are several ways to do this. Select some text, then:

    • Press Ctrl+I for italics or Ctrl+B for bold

    • Click the Bold button or the Italics button button on the toolbar

    • Choose Format > Style and click on Bold or Italic

  3. Now, let's create a heading with a different font, a larger type size, and bold plus italic. Press Enter to start a new paragraph.

  4. Type the words Example Heading and press Enter.

  5. Select the text you just typed, and choose Format > Font > Arial. (If you don't have Arial, select Helvetica or another similar font.)

  6. Choose Format > Size > 18 pt to increase the point size of the text.

  7. Make the heading bold and italic using any one of the methods from Step 2.

  8. Click on the line beneath your heading to return to the original text format.

    Pretty laborious? Paragraph tags are a way of making this whole process faster, easier, and more organized. A better way to do what we just did would have been to type the text first and then apply a paragraph tag, but we'll get to this later.

Changing the Display of the Page

There are various ways to change the display of the page in FrameMaker. You can change the magnification, and show or hide various guides and symbols:
  1. Spend some time changing the magnification of the page. To enlarge or reduce the size of the page in the FrameMaker window, you can use the Zoom buttons in the lower right corner of the document window. You can reduce or enlarge the view of the page at any magnification level from 25% to 400%.

    Little z button Click the little z to reduce the magnification.
    Big Z button Click the big Z to increase the magnification.
    Zoom Indicator Click in the Zoom Indicator, and select the desired magnification.
    Note: When you change the magnification, only the display changes, not the actual size of the document.

  2. Choose View > Text Symbols to display or hide the text symbols. This includes paragraph symbols ( ¶ ), tab symbols (), and other symbols, such as cross-reference markers. You can do the same thing to display or hide the borders and rulers. The checkmarks show the symbols and guides that are currently displayed in the document window; for now, leave them displayed.

Using Paragraph and Character Tags to Format Text

Paragraph and Character tags are essential to the professional technical writer. You'll learn more about Paragraph and Character tags later, but for now, we'll just show you the basics.

Paragraph tags allow you to format a paragraph of text and give it a name so that you can use the exact same format on other paragraphs in your document. This is very similar to the concept of styles in other desktop publishing applications, and allows you greater consistency and ease when formatting large documents. Paragraph tags affect the entire paragraph. Every paragraph must have some tag associated with it.

Character tags, on the other hand, allow you to format a character or characters within a paragraph without changing the entire paragraph. This might seem rather useless, but if you've seen how computer books often use a different font for example text, you'll see the value of this function. For example, you can use 11-point Courier New to differentiate example text from body text. It is much easier to click on a character tag called Examples than to select Courier New and then select 11 point for each occurrence of example text. Character tags affect only the selected text.

Use some of the existing tags to format the text in your document:

  1. Open the Paragraph Catalog by clicking on the Paragraph Catalog button in the top right corner of the document window. You'll see a dozen or more tags including three levels of headings, a bulleted list tag, as well as two numbered list tags.

  2. Type in several paragraphs that you can use to experiment with paragraph tags. (Remember a "paragraph" is any chunk of text followed by a paragraph symbol [¶]. A paragraph can be one word, or even one letter.)

  3. Click in one of your paragraphs and select Heading1 from the Paragraph Catalog. You don't have to select any text, having the text insertion point in the paragraph is all it takes. The Paragraph Catalog stays open until you click on the X to close it.

  4. Press Enter to create a new paragraph. Notice that the new paragraph is not another heading, but a paragraph called Body. This is just one of many properties you can apply to a paragraph tag. For a heading, you typically want a body paragraph to follow. For a bulleted list item, you'd want another bulleted list item, and so on.

    To see every attribute included with a paragraph tag, open the Paragraph Designer by choosing Format > Paragraphs > Designer. The different tabs (Basic, Default Font, Pagination, etc.,) represent different groups of properties.

  5. Now, open the Character Catalog by clicking on the Character Catalog button in the top right corner of the document window.

  6. Select any word in your document and click on Emphasis in the Character Catalog. This tag makes the selected text italic. Notice that the status bar at the bottom of the document window displays the paragraph and character format of the text which is currently selected.

    status bar

  7. With the text still selected, click on Default ¶ Font in the Character Catalog to return the text to normal. (This tag returns the text to the regular formats of the paragraph tag.)

Using Numbered Lists

To use the paragraph tags with autonumbering properties:
  1. Type in eight lines of text, each line ending with a paragraph return [¶].

  2. Select the first four paragraphs, and click on Numbered in the Paragraph Catalog.

  3. Now skip the fifth paragraph, and make the last three paragraphs Numbered also.

  4. If you want the numbering in the sixth paragraph to start over at one, you must apply a special paragraph tag to do so. Click in the sixth paragraph and choose Numbered1. The Numbered1 tag has an attribute that resets the numbering string to one.

Using Tabs and Indents

To use tabs:
  1. Click in one of the Numbered paragraphs from the previous section. Notice the symbols that appear on the ruler. The downward-pointing triangles represent indents (first line and left indent) and the upward-pointing arrow represents a left tab.

    Ruler with tabs and indent symbols

  2. Click on the left tab symbol and drag the symbol slightly to the right. Notice that the paragraph text moves also.

  3. Open the Paragraph Designer (Format > Paragraphs > Designer) and click Update All. Every paragraph with the tag Numbered will be updated to reflect the change.

    This is a quick way to adjust tabs. Often, however, you will want to adjust the numerical value of the tab. The following steps show you how to adjust the tab's numerical value:

  4. Click in one of the Numbered paragraphs.

  5. In the Paragraph Designer, click on the Basic tab. In the Tab Stops area, you should see an entry for the left (L) tab you modified earlier. Now let's return the left tab to it's normal position.

  6. In the Paragraph Designer, click on the left tab in the Tab Stops area, and click Edit.

  7. The Edit Tab Stop window appears. In the New Position box, type 0.25 and click Continue.

  8. In the Paragraph Designer, click Update All to move every paragraph with the Numbered tag to the 0.25" L position. This is a more exact way to adjust tab properties in your paragraph tags.

  9. Now experiment with the other tabs: one is for centered, another for right, and another for decimal alignment.

To use indents:
  1. Click in one of the Body paragraphs.

  2. In the Paragraph Designer, enter 0.5 for First Indent.

  3. Click Update All to indent the first line of every Body paragraph.

  4. Explore the left indents for paragraphs that span more than one line.

    Note: You can also adjust indents using the indent symbols on the ruler.

Controlling Pagination

To make a paragraph start at the top of the next page:
  1. Click in any paragraph in your document.

  2. In the Paragraph Designer, click on the Pagination tab.

  3. In the Start box, select Top of Page and click Apply.

    If you clicked Update All instead of Apply, all paragraphs with that tag would start at the top of a new page. This is useful for chapter headings and the like, but in most cases, you just want a certain paragraph to start at the top of the next page. Experiment with the other options, such as Top of Left Page or Top of Right Page.

  4. Click on the X in the upper right corner of the Paragraph Designer window to close it.

Inserting Page Numbers

Here's how to insert a page number:
  1. Choose View > Master Pages.

  2. Scroll to the footer frame at the bottom of the master page, and click within that frame.

  3. Choose Format > Headers & Footers > Insert Page#.

    The number symbol appears on the master page where the page number will be on the body pages. We will explore master pages in more detail later.

  4. Choose View > Body Pages. Scroll through your document to see how the page numbers increment.

    Note: You can apply paragraph and character tags to page numbers on master pages.


Here are some more tips and pointers:

Okay, that's it for this introduction to FrameMaker. If you have time, go back and explore the different tags in the standard FrameMaker templates.

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