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MadCap Flare 2017 vs. FrameMaker®

A Detailed Functionality Comparison

MadCap Flare Icon

Our comprehensive guide helps you understand the key differences between MadCap Flare and Adobe® FrameMaker®. View the chart below to compare features such as authoring, leveraging existing content, team collaboration, and more.

This detailed functionality comparison has been prepared by MadCap Software. The views, opinions and feature comparisons expressed in this document are based solely on MadCap’s evaluation and understanding of the FrameMaker® product, reviews from customers and other publicly available information available at the time of preparing this document.

General

  Flare FrameMaker®
Download Size

~379 MB

~1.92 GB

Average Release Cycle and Updates

MadCap Software follows an agile release cycle with multiple major updates and releases per year.

Based on history, Adobe® typically only has a major release every 18 - 24 months (fewer and less frequent updates often make it difficult to support newer technologies such as OS and web browser updates as they become available).

Topic-Based Authoring (Maximize Content Reuse)

Flare is designed from the ground up to be a topic based single-sourcing tool that focuses on maximizing content reuse, authoring efficiency and multiple outputs from the same source.

Unstructured FrameMaker® was developed over 25 years ago to follow a "chapter-based" authoring model and is not designed for maximum content reuse and advanced single-sourcing techniques.

True Multi-Channel Publishing

With Flare, you can maintain your source and output to many different output types without having to purchase a suite of tools. There are no limitations on the number or variations of the different targets available.

  • PDF
  • DOC, DOCX
  • XPS
  • DotNet Help
  • WebHelp
  • WebHelp Mobile
  • EPUB
  • MOBI/Kindle
  • FM
  • XHTML Book
  • DITA
  • CHM
  • WebHelp Plus
  • AIR
  • HTML5
  • Eclipse Help
Even though FrameMaker® can now generate multiple outputs with limited options and settings, it is still limited to one of each type of output. Managing the settings and appearance between variations is limited and can be cumbersome. There is no visual representation on what is different or how many variations of an output type there are.
Advanced Single-Sourcing

Flare was built with single-sourcing and topic based authoring as the focus, with an entire feature-set revolving around single-sourcing and content reuse in one tool:

  • Unlimited TOCs
  • Unlimited Targets
  • Snippets
  • Conditionals
  • Snippet Conditions
  • Snippet Variables
  • Variables
  • Tags
  • Glossary Sets
  • And much more...

Although FrameMaker® does have some features for content reuse, it is based of a "chapter-based" authoring paradigm. Its unstructured mode cannot take advantage of the reuse strengths that modern topic-based authoring paradigms allow.

Reports and Project Analysis

Flare not only offers a large number of free 'static' reports for users, it also provides a set of 'dynamic' reports. The errors or warnings in these reports can be double-clicked to open the topic with the error or warning message selected. Some of these reports in Flare include:

  • Broken Hyperlinks
  • Topics not in Index
  • Topics not in TOC
  • Unused files
  • And many more...

FrameMaker® only offers a few of 'static' textual reports. Other reports are available via Distiller on output, but any real reporting that is needed will have to be done using third-party tools.

In-depth Project Suggestions, Clean-up and Reporting

MadCap Software also offers a standalone product called MadCap Analyzer that will analyze projects and provide more 'dynamic' reports to help you troubleshoot your projects.

Analyzer Scans go well beyond just reporting, it finds and helps correct critical issues, makes suggestions for content reuse, helps clean up redundant formatting, styles and much more.

Adobe® does not offer an advanced analytic tool for their authoring products.

Shared Network Projects

Flare gives you the flexibility to store your projects on shared network drives as well as locations on other local hard drives. You will be able to author, generate outputs, etc. on these projects as you would if they were stored locally.

FrameMaker® can open and edit its files from network locations but it has been reported to be problematic. There can be errors and crashes with the files as well as saving outputs, etc.

Templates Designed for Single-Sourcing

If you need samples or a project to get you started, Flare includes several templates that are specially designed to increase efficiency. Each is designed with a specific output (or multiple outputs). Choose from Knowledge Base, Online, Online and Print, Policies and Procedures, User Guides, Product Fold-outs and many more...

FrameMaker® offers only basic samples that are mostly Print-centric.

Translation & Localization Workflow (Streamline Translation and Multi-Language Publishing)

Flare Project files are entirely in XML so you can send your entire project off to be translated, not just the output. Since all of the project files are XML, you can easily use any existing translation process and any common translation tools, or you can use MadCap Lingo to facilitate and streamline translation.

MadCap Lingo is a powerful, easy-to-use translation environment tool (TMS) designed to assist technical writers, documentation specialists and professional translators in the translation and localization process.

Flare also offers a Project Export Feature that allows you to export a project based off of, a target, condition, file tag and more. This allows you to send only the files off that are marked for translation or used in a specific target.

To the best of our knowledge, Adobe has no product similar to MadCap Lingo nor does FrameMaker® integrate with any third party translation memory tool to the same extent as Flare, MadCap Lingo and Project Packager.

Animated Tutorials/Demos

Full integration with MadCap Mimic. Tutorial and demo files created with Mimic can be used in Flare projects and they can share Flare project attributes, such as Variables or Conditional Tags. If you need to customize your documentation for multiple customers, you can create a variable called "Customer Name". This variable can be used in your Flare content and can also be used in your Mimic built tutorial/demo files. When it is time to publish documentation for "XYZ Corp" you do a simple variable definition once. Both your Flare content and your Mimic content are automatically updated for that customer.

Supports Captivate movies. The integration between the two is limited. There is no support for project or build variables.

Authoring

  Flare FrameMaker®
Responsive Authoring

Allows users to create responsive content.

The benefit of putting your content into such a grid is that it allows it to shift and be responsive to screens of different sizes.

FrameMaker® does not offer any kind of responsive authoring environment.
Feature Rich Topic (XHTML) Editing

Edit all of your content in a built-in, easy-to-use editor that allows you to see the structure of the document as well as all of the mark up without having to worry about it.

  • Easily edit and format content
  • Split the editor to see the code while editing
  • Sync the selections between the code and the editor in real time
  • Auto-complete tags and attributes when typing in the text editor
  • Syntax coloring for CSS and XHTML in the text editor

    Flare also allow you to use other editors to add and edit content.

You can only see the underlying code in another pane when in structured authoring mode, and you cannot freely edit it. In unstructured mode, there is no side-by-side code and WYSIWYG View, nor is there a real-time display of changes in both views simultaneously.

Dynamic Authoring Modes (Edit Content in Web, Tablet, Mobile, or Print Mode)

Flare allows content creators to author content in a modern XHMTL editor that renders the content as it would appear in Standard (web), Responsive, or Print modes. The authoring environment automatically changes based off of the user’s selection. This gives the author a visual representation of their content in both online and print before publishing their output.

The editor can be customized further by selecting from existing mediums or page layouts to display the content as close to the output’s settings as possible.

FrameMaker® only offers two modes for authoring depending on whether you are authoring in structured or unstructured modes. It doesn’t allow the author to change the authoring environment based off of an output type.

Dynamic Preview The preview for topics, snippets, and master pages now displays in a dynamic window pane. This allows you to keep the preview open while you work and see changes as you make them in the XML Editor. FrameMaker® has no such support.
Smart Quotes per Language

Different languages use different kinds of quotation marks. Flare now replaces quotes based on your project's current language.

Additionally, if you are using a different language in a specific topic or tag (see Selecting a Language), Flare will use the correct smart quote for that language setting

FrameMaker® may support different quotes based on the Locale of the system it is installed on, but there is no option to use smart quotes based on its installed dictionaries.
Metadata

Using Flare's File Tagging feature, topics can be tagged with author, status, or other pieces of metadata as required. Unlimited numbers of new tags can be created by the authoring team for anything that they may needed.

Flare also allows authors to add Description data to each individual topics as well as other Meta data for the 'Online" Targets.

FrameMaker® only supports a basic set of metadata, similar to Microsoft® Word's Document Properties; Author, Title, Subject, Copyright, etc.

Link Viewer

The Link Viewer window pane lets you see what other files a particular file is linked to and from. You can see incoming links from other files, outgoing links to other files and output targets associated with the selected file. This dynamic pane can be set to change when a new topic is selected or keep the data from the topic that you had selected.

FrameMaker® has no robust view or way to interactively track down and fix broken links or linked resources.

Glossary Support

You can now control case-sensitivity and variants (Stemming of terms).

Glossary Terms can be conditioned.

Glossary Terms can now be Sorted so they display under certain headers and terms.

Variables can be used in Glossary Terms and Definitions.

The glossary is displayed as a simple “List of Markers’ in FrameMaker®.

Equation Support

Flare includes support for MathML and LaTeX allowing you to create and embed virtually any kind of mathematical equation.

  • Use any number of free equations editors or your own editor
  • Simply copy and paste the code into Flare’s equation editor.
  • Output of equations can be SVG or PNG images

FrameMaker® offers one type of built-in equation editor at no cost. However this equation editor does not support the MathML Standard.

In order to support MathML you need to purchase a second third-party tool separately for up to several hundreds of dollars plus maintenance. FrameMaker® includes a 30 day trial of this third-party software.

Table Styles and Mediums

Flare offers an easy-to-use editor for creating CSS to define the look and feel of tables that can be reused and shared between projects.

The editor also allows you to create Mediums for the table styles, making it easy to single-source tables and make them appear the way you want them to look in various outputs.

Although FrameMaker® does have a table designer and templates for tables but it has no support through CSS and mediums.

Thumbnail Image Support

Use a simple CSS style to define image thumbnail characteristics and then reuse that style on hundreds of images in a project as necessary. This brings consistency and automation to the use of thumbnail images for the team and improves usability for the customers.

FrameMaker® has no such support.

Embed Vimeo and YouTube Movies

Link to or Embed your Vimeo and YouTube movies right through Flare's UI.

FrameMaker® has no such support.

Advanced Symbol and Character Maps

An advanced Character Map UI allows easy location and insertion of symbols and special characters that authors may need. Other features include being able to manage favorites and recently used, search, enter hex codes, use a character with a particular font, and assign a 'Quick Character' that has the F11 key assigned to it.

FrameMaker® has a basic Symbol Dialog that allows you to simply pick a character. Separate UI for entering HEX Codes is also provided.

Integrated Screen Capture Utility with Image Single-Sourcing

MadCap Capture is free for customers on the latest release of Flare. With full integration into Flare, users can capture screens, apply call outs and other objects, single-source images to various output types, keep text and images separate for translation ease, and much more.

FrameMaker® offers a basic screen capture utility with basic editing functionality. It offers no single-sourcing capability and very little integration into the workflow.

Relationship Table Support

A relationship table is an element used to link related topics together. It is similar to concept links or related topics links. Although a relationship table is a common feature in DITA, you do not need to be using DITA or know anything about DITA in order to take advantage of relationship tables in Flare.

If you import content from DITA files that already contain relationship tables, those tables are retained in Flare. You can also create new relationship tables in a Flare project and insert relationship proxies into individual topics. In online output, the end result is one or more hyperlinks that let users quickly open related topics. In print-based output, the end result is one or more references to related topics with the appropriate page number(s).

FrameMaker® works with relationship tables but only when working with DITA.

Dictionaries and Hyphenation

Flare offers language support for numerous dictionaries and hyphenation rules that you can extend using openoffice.org.

FrameMaker® supports a number of languages out of the box but has no way to add new languages through the UI.

Structure Bars (Block Bars)

A graphical interface to access document structure without disturbing the content in the visual editor. These bars are located around the topic and visually show the structure of the XML. Not only do structure bars let you see the XML tag, but you can also perform numerous tasks by using them. If you right-click on a structure bar, a context menu opens. From the menu, you can select from several options to take action on the content associated with that XML tag.

FrameMaker® has no such support. You can see the structure of a document in another pod when in Structured Authoring Mode, but options are limited.

Topic Status

Using Flare's File Tagging feature, topics can be tagged with author, status, or other pieces of meta data as required. New tags can be created by the authoring team as needed.

FrameMaker® has no native way to set and report off of topic status.

Interface Language Choices While Authoring

Configurable author interface. Select English, French, German, or Japanese interface at start up. Change your mind later. No additional versions to buy; these language interfaces are all included with Flare.

You cannot swap language interfaces without purchasing and reinstalling separate applications. Adobe offers different versions of FrameMaker® for each language that need to be purchased separately.

Redacted Text Support

For those who need to control sensitive information (such as personal data like social security numbers) while publishing in a legal environment where the use of a Conditional Tag would not meet the legal requirements, Flare supports Redacted Text. This renders the text unreadable and inaccessible without changing the flow of the document.

FrameMaker® has no such support.

CSS and Medium Support

Flare fully supports the CSS standard as well as allowing custom MadCap objects to be formatted using special MadCap properties. CSS files can be edited using Flare's Basic, Advanced or Internal Text Editor, or can be edited using your favorite CSS editor.

Use the full featured CSS editor to edit properties, create classes, pseudo classes, import styles, link styles, add mediums, edit complex selectors, disable styles, add comments to styles and more.

FrameMaker® has no CSS editing support in non-structured mode. You import styles in to a proprietary EDD format and proceed from there.

Advanced Variable Support

Variables in Flare are optimized with single-sourcing in mind. Flare offers the ability to have multiple definitions for each variable as well as select the desired definition or completely change it in each target. You can also create Date/Time variables based on Microsoft®'s "Custom Date and Time Format Strings."

FrameMaker® offers various variable types but no way to easily override their definitions in the various output types. It also does not support multiple definitions for each variable.

Quick Launch Bar

Easily find functions content files or commands simply by typing in the Quick Launch Bar.

Find what you need without having to search through folders or ribbons.

FrameMaker® has no such support.

Synchronization of Topic Title and TOC Entries Use a system variables to ensure that your TOC entries are always in sync with your topic titles when creating online outputs. FrameMaker® has no such support.

Importing - Leveraging Existing Content

  Flare FrameMaker®
Import Microsoft® Word Documents

Flare's robust import UI provides a lot of flexibility and options to import your existing .doc and .docx files into a new or existing project. You have control over where your files break, whether to retain your formatting or not, style mapping options, import equations, and many more advanced options.

FrameMaker® imports Microsoft® Word Documents into existing FrameMaker® documents but with limited options.

The following items are not supported in the Import process and are ignored:

  • Table of Contents (TOC) and Index
  • Headers and Footers
  • Local paragraph overrides
  • Local character overrides
  • Text frames
  • ALL Word specific features
  • Linked graphics and images
  • Equations: If you Save the Word document as RTF and import, FrameMaker will import them as PNG images.
Import RoboHelp Projects

Imports the content and project files used in RoboHelp while reserving all of your content and most other items such as conditions, variables, snippets, glossaries, index entries, TOCs, and more.

FrameMaker® has no such support.

Import HHP

Easily import legacy HTML Help Projects (HHP) into Flare so you don’t have to spend the time recreating content.

FrameMaker® has no such support.

Import CHM Files

At times users have been stuck with an old legacy CHM file that they need to update but no longer have the project. With Flare you can import the CHM into a new Flare project and save countless hours of recreating the content.

FrameMaker® has no such support.

Import HTML Files

Flare allows you to import HTML into a project, select the project folder to import it to and whether or not to import any resources such as images, style sheets, etc. Flare also allows users to point to a folder of HTML files and link to them and auto-import before generating selected outputs.

FrameMaker® imports HTML as text and you have to deal with removing the tags and applying styles to reformat the content.

Import DITA

In Flare you can import content from files that have either a .dita or .ditamap extension. You can start a new project by importing DITA file content, or you can import DITA file content into an existing project. During import you can assign style classes to items, set up an option to re-import the files before a target is built, etc.

FrameMaker® allows you to work in DITA but only if you are in Structured Mode. You cannot import DITA in unstructured mode, it is imported as text and you will have to remove all tags and apply styles to reformat the content.

Import Flare Projects

Import all or specific files (content, project files, etc.) from another Flare Project. Do this import once to seed a new project or “link” to the project to import automatically before generating specific outputs.

FrameMaker® has no such support.

Sync Legacy Documents and Use Them in Outputs

You can import your FrameMaker®, Microsoft® Word files and HTML files, etc., link to them and re-import them before every build. This allows you to have people in your organization create content in tools that they already use and automatically incorporate any changes they make into your next build. Flare also gives you the option to unlink and relink these imported files and even set an override in the target.

FrameMaker® offers the ability to link by reference but doesn't offer nearly as much flexibility in bringing in your content.

External Resources Pane

The External Resources window pane lets you select and maintain groups of external files that you want to share among Flare projects. External resources can be virtually any local or network files that you have access to (e.g., images, PDF files, Flare project files). From the External Resources window pane, you can easily bring external files into a project (i.e., a copy of the file is added to your Flare project) and keep them synchronized with the source files through mappings.

Standalone FrameMaker® has ways to link to external data between documents, but none as clean as having a resource pane to manage the files and links.

Import Doc-To-Help Projects

Authors wanting to convert from Doc-To-Help to Flare can directly import their content into Flare. The import process will import the content as well as maintain other items such as, variables, groups, etc. During the import those items will be converted to the equivalent item in Flare.

FrameMaker® has no such support.

PDF Stitching

Flare allows you to stitch PDFs together simply by adding them to the projects TOC. This can be handy if you have content that resides in a PDF, a EULA for example, that you already have approved and want to add it to your PDF output. Another use for this feature can be for assembling multi-language PDFs.

FrameMaker® has no such support.

Team Collaboration

  Flare FrameMaker®
Collaboration Workflow

With MadCap Contributor, anyone in the company can create content and send it to a Flare author for inclusion in a Flare project. This content is written in XML so there is no data loss since there is no code conversion, both products are "speaking the same language".

FrameMaker® has no native collaboration tool unless you are in structured mode or a part of a CMS.

Source Control Integration

Flare integrates directly into the free Subversion revision control system and also provides direct connectivity with Microsoft® Visual Source Safe, Microsoft® Team Foundation Server, Microsoft® SharePoint, Perforce and Git. This allows you to work with Flare projects stored in these source control environments without a third-party plugin. Flare also can support additional source control solutions that conform to the Microsoft® Source Code Control APIs (Microsoft® SCC APIs).

FrameMaker® can plug into costly CMS systems as well as some support for Microsoft® SharePoint as a CMS.

Global Project Linking

In Flare you can import content and project files contained in another Flare project, thus allowing you to maintain the information in one location but reuse it in any other project. You can include or exclude particular types of files (e.g., topics, snippets, stylesheets, glossaries, targets), specific individual files, or files that have certain condition tags applied. Simply use the include/exclude methods that work best for you.

This is different than a simple import process, because in this case, the imported files remain linked to the source project. This allows you to make future updates to those files in just one place–in the source project file. When you perform ongoing imports using your previous settings, Flare recognizes changes to the source files. Therefore, the new files can be brought over, replacing the outdated files.

FrameMaker® can link file from reference but doesn’t have Flare’s capability to pick and choose file types from another project.

Output/Publishing

  Flare FrameMaker®
Out of Process Build

Don't let your build process stop you from being productive. With Flare you can start and queue several builds from the project that you are working on or other projects while continuing to work.

FrameMaker® has no such support.

Batch Build/Publish

Group various targets together so that they can be compiled and published at the same time. Batch targets can even be scheduled to generate and publish through the scheduler.

FrameMaker® offers UI to batch generate several outputs at the same time but you cannot create multiple types of these output “groups” or schedule them.

Scheduled Build/Publish

Maximize your authoring time and schedule Flare to generate and or publish batch targets while you are away from the office or home for the evening.

FrameMaker® only offers this with the FrameMaker Publishing Server or other tools.

Organize Publishing Targets

Use Flare’s Project Organizer to create folders and organize all of your targets. Store them in any structure that you choose so they can be easily found and used.

FrameMaker® has no such support.

TopNav (Non-TriPane/Freeform HTML5 Output)

Create a new Industry changing output based off of HTML5. You can now break the traditional tri-pane look and feel and customize your end user's experience.

Use the TopNav skin for your navigation or use any of the Skin Components combined with Master Pages to further customize your look and feel.

FrameMaker® has no such support.

HTML5 Topics (No Skin)

Do you just need your topics without any navigation, no problem. Just select the "(none)" option in the HTML5 target.

FrameMaker® has no such support.

Command-line Build/Publish

Build into Flare is a command line build interface. This allows you to incorporate Flare into existing processes easier and allows you to build your outputs outside of the Flare environment. You can build a single target, multiple targets or batch files that exist in the project.

FrameMaker® only offers this with the FrameMaker Publishing Server or other tools.

Pre and Post Build Scripting You can add pre- or post-build events to your target. This lets you run command line events before or after the target is generated. This allows you to change files before you build or after you build is complete. FrameMaker® has no such support.
Choose Specific Browser or Viewer to View Output

You can now choose a specific browser or viewer when opening the output for a target from the Project ribbon or from the Target Editor.

FrameMaker® has no such support.
Single-Click Print Output

It is easier than ever before to single-source your content to Print Outputs. Let Flare automatically include a pre-formatted, TOC, Index and Glossary in the Print outputs. If you want to override the defaults you are free to customize everything as needed.

FrameMaker® requires you to manually create pages and insert TOCs, Indexes and Glossaries into the documents or books.

Socially Enabled Output

Flare contains the ability to create a socially enabled output that allows you to connect, collaborate, and share knowledge with fellow authors, employees, and customers. It functions much like many of the social media websites on the Internet, except it revolves specifically around your online output. It also allows you to see how people are using your output, what they are searching for, what topics are being used, browser and OS statistics and many other useful reports.

FrameMaker® offers a server to collect data and limited commenting but does not offer a single solution for full social collaboration. You can turn on Facebook and Twitter widgets in the HTML5 output.

Schedule, Build and Publish Multiple Outputs

Flare supports command-line compiling, the ability to schedule builds and publishing outputs, allowing you to maximize your authoring time and build/publish your outputs at the end of the working day or overnight.

For thousands of more dollars, you can get this functionality with FrameMaker Server®.

Web/Online Outputs

Not only can you generate professional print outputs from Flare, but you can generate digital "Online" outputs from it too.

  • AIR
  • CHM
  • DITA
  • DotNet
  • HTML5
  • Eclipse Help
  • WebHelp
  • WebHelp Mobile
  • WebHelp Plus

FrameMaker® can work with DITA and XML in structured mode, but it can only natively output HTML5, CHM and WebHelp with limited options and settings.

Coming from a Print-centric environment to an online format could require a good bit of reformatting and restructuring.

Eclipse Help

The Eclipse Help output type is designed specifically for content developers who want to use Flare to author an Eclipse Help plug-in. Flare allows you to create a target for Eclipse Help and generate it as easily and seamlessly as any of the other output types.

FrameMaker® does not output to Eclipse Help without using another tool, script or purchasing the FrameMaker Publishing Server.

More Print Output Options

Along with producing PDF output, Flare gives you several other solutions for print:

  • Native PDF Output
  • FrameMaker® files (.book, .fm, .mif)
  • Microsoft® XPS
  • Microsoft® Word (.doc & .docx)
  • Microsoft® Office 365
  • XHTML Book
  • EPUB Output
  • MOBI/Kindle Output

Along with their formats (book & .fm), FrameMaker® can output to PDF, MIF, ePub, Kindle and RTF.

It cannot output Microsoft® XPS, Microsoft® Word, or support Microsoft® Office 365.

CHM Output and Runtime Merging of CHMs

Flare fully supports HTML Help Output (CHM) allowing the user control over most options available to the output. Also, with a single file and Flare's ability to merge CHM files, you can set up a system that allows to you merge CHMs at runtime.

FrameMaker® has the ability to output .CHM files but the options are limited and there is no ability to create Runtime Merging of CHMs.

Compile Log File

Not only does Flare create a report for warnings and errors while compiling, but it allows you to save the report to a "dynamic log" file. This file allows you to open the topic double-click the individual error messages. Flare will also highlight the area that contains the error in the open topic when possible.

Flare also allows the author to turn on and off the types of errors displayed during a compile.

Users can specify where they would like the build logs saved.

FrameMaker® has a few reports delivered from Distiller and a build log when creating online outputs, but in order to get enhanced reports, you would have to rely on third-party tools.

There are no options to save these logs. They are always stored in the following location:

C:\Users\TEMP.USER\FMOutput\Test.htm

Multilingual Output

Flare's multilingual functionality has been improved to make it easier to create and build multilingual output. You can now seamlessly create multilingual outputs for each of Flare’s output types.

If you have translated any of your existing Flare projects, simply link the translated projects in the Target file and let Flare will build all the translated projects into a single output.

A Language Selector button has been added to the topic toolbar skin allowing end users to select which language they want to use when viewing the help.

FrameMaker® has no such support.
Byte Order Mark The BOM is a Unicode character that appears at the start of a text stream. Most authors probably want to disable the BOM. But if you are hosting content on a web server that requires BOM (such as a LINUX machine), you can enable it. FrameMaker® has no such support.