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Adobe enhancing FrameMaker software

The company on Monday will announce the release of a new version of its FrameMaker publishing software, which continues the company's push into server programs.

Adobe Systems on Monday will announce the release of a new version of its FrameMaker publishing software, which continues the company's push into server programs.

FrameMaker is a package of tools for composing documents for print and electronic distribution. The new FrameMaker 7.0 includes a server module and tools, based on XML (Extensible Markup Language), that can automatically reformat the same document for delivery in various forms, such as an HTML Web page, an Acrobat print file or a Palm handheld document.

Such capabilities tie in with Adobe's push for "network publishing," in which documents can be easily shared and distributed throughout a company, said Karl Matthews, group product manager for Adobe.

"It's basically the concept of authoring once and publishing everywhere, and XML is really the engine behind that," Matthews said. "We really think this will make XML approachable to the corporate masses."

Other features in the new FrameMaker include templates to help desktop users optimize documents for various publishing formats and a simplified, point-and-click WYSIWYG interface that Adobe expects will make the software much more approachable to the average corporate worker. WYSIWYG refers to any technology that enables you to see images onscreen exactly as they will appear when printed out.

"The people who create and author content want the tools to be as simple as possible," Matthews said. "They don't want to put a lot of time into learning the format."

Forrester Research analyst Harley Manning said the interface in the new FrameMaker is somewhat simplified, but it's still likely to spook those unfamiliar with this or other Adobe products.

"The reality is that with the inherent complexity of the products Adobe is making, there's only so much they can do to make them more approachable for new users," Manning said. "Adobe products are very well thought out for a particular audience of professional content creators. But it's never going to look easy to the average Word user."

Manning thinks the overall push with FrameMaker 7 is on target, however, including the expansion into server-based software.

"They've been talking about their network publishing vision for a while; now they're finally starting to deliver on that," Manning said. "It's not really network publishing if you just have the software running on individual desktops and people are e-mailing stuff to each other."

The new FrameMaker follows several recent moves by Adobe to expand into the server arena. In January, the company released software for managing images throughout a corporate network. A few days later, Adobe announced it was acquiring Accelio, a small Canadian company that makes server software for managing data submitted through electronic forms.

The moves have prompted speculation that Adobe may expand into content management software (CMS), server applications produced by companies such as Interwoven and Documentum that manage the flow of text data throughout a business.

Manning said the new FrameMaker competes with CMS programs in handling "version control"--making sure all versions of a document are consistent--but he doesn't see the company making any broad moves into CMS.

"What Adobe is doing overlaps in one aspect with CMS, but I think they're honest when they say they want to complement what companies like Documentum are doing," Manning said.

FrameMaker 7 will be released this quarter, on a date to be announced. The Windows and Mac desktop version costs $799, or $349 for those upgrading from a previous version. The server product, available in Mac and Unix versions, costs $7,999, or $3,999 for the upgrade.