FrameMaker 8 Conditional Expressions

A preview of the work being done to support FrameMaker 8.

by Ben Allums
December 19, 2007

Figure: FrameMaker 8's Show Conditional Text *as per Expression*

Currently, we are working on updating ePublisher to run on Windows Vista. Also, I am working on updating ePublisher's FrameMaker ToolAdapter to support FrameMaker 8. One of the more challenging aspects of this latter task is adding support for FrameMaker 8's new ”conditional expression” feature. This feature allows the end-user to define a logical expression that should be used when applying visibility settings to conditional segments of a FrameMaker document. On the FrameMaker side, it seems that retrieving the information from the new FDK is relatively trivial. The more interesting challenge may be how to present this new paradigm to ePublisher users. At first, we decided to wrap the old mechanism in a radio button region and add the new option to a new radio button section.

Figure: HTML Mock-up of Radio Button Approach

Initial efforts to design this approach have fleshed out an important shortcoming in the current “unified” interface that ePublisher presents for defining condition visibility. Specifically, different source formats have different ideas of what “conditions” are and how they are implemented. DITA provides a “tag-like” approach that allows filtering for purposes other than visibility. If your input is Word or a version of FrameMaker below 7.x, you have no use for an expression option.

Figure: ePublisher's Cross Reference Rules Dialog

This revelation is causing us to pursue an alternative approach. The idea is to move Conditions out of the hybrid Conditions/Variables dialog altogether and model a new Conditions dialog after the existing Cross Reference Rules dialog. As with Cross Reference Rules, this approach would allow us to display a Conditions dialog appropriate for each input format. No mock-up yet, but stay tuned.