Stepping up from Word to Adobe FrameMaker

Learn why FrameMaker is so much more efficient than MS Word for documentation and how you can transition your complex Word documents into Adobe FrameMaker 2019 without skipping a beat.

This post, a recap of my free webinar for Adobe in January 2020, will show you:

  • Advantages of using FrameMaker instead of Word
  • Best practices in preparing your Word documents for the transition to FrameMaker
  • How to best migrate the content and formatting from your existing documents into FrameMaker

Advantages of FrameMaker over Word

FrameMaker is designed from the ground-up as a long document publishing tool. FrameMaker has unparalleled control over:

  • Book structures, including TOC and Index
  • Complex and connected autonumbering across files and content types
  • Built-in support for structured content like DITA and S1000D
  • Cross-referencing of content that both speeds entry and ensures accuracy over time
  • Excellent control of graphics and placed multimedia
  • Beautiful output of your content to PDF, online help systems, and standalone phone apps

Best practices for preparing Word docs to FrameMaker

Paragraph and character styles

The ease of converting any file type to another editing application lies in having consistent content. Both Word and FrameMaker have robust paragraph styles at their core, and with any luck, your Word files will be tagged with Heading 1, Heading 2, etc.

But let’s say your document uses the dreaded Normal+ (basically an override of the Normal paragraph style) to format headings, titles, and other content. If so, all hope is not lost! You can either go in and tag those paragraphs accordingly, or if you have an overwhelming amount of content to convert, you can use a utility in FrameMaker to create styles based upon the manual overrides in your original content. Creating and managing those styles isn’t ideal, but it’s a great deal easier than manually applying paragraph, character, and other styles to hundreds of pages of content.

Assuming you (mostly) have text with styles applied, the next step is to create a mapping of the Word styles to your FrameMaker template.

For details on mapping and converting content see

NOTE: Don’t sweat it if you haven’t yet created a finished template for your project; even a “blank” default FrameMaker document has a series of styles you can use for mapping. Later I’ll point you toward a tool that can help you change and delete the style names you have in your documents.


With the myriad of formats and methods of placing graphics in a Word doc, there’s no one answer here. However, you should first try to import the Word file directly into FrameMaker to see if you get workable graphics in your FrameMaker document. If not, you may have to track down original copies of the files.

The good news here is that FrameMaker can directly import just about any graphics file format you have, even some native formats like AI and PSD.

If you don’t have original files for your graphics, you can always produce a PDF of the Word file and extract the graphics from the PDF one at a time.

If the graphics import well but are not positioned as you wish, consider creating and applying Object Styles to the frames containing the images. See Cool feature #7: Object Styles in Making Your Life Easier: The 10 Coolest Features in Adobe FrameMaker

Appying/reapplying a template in FrameMaker

You will inevitably have some overrides to your paragraph styles in your imported content. One easy way to remove these overrides is to import your template back into your document. In fact you can even use your current document as the source for this import. Just be sure to select the Remove Format and Other Overrides checkbox when you import.

Managing your style catalogs

I absolutely depend on my pal Rick Quatro’s FindChangeFormatsBatch script (which is different from his also-useful FindChangeBatch script). See My Fm secret weapon: FindChangeFormatsBatch for an overview of how this script works and details on purchasing.

Managing imported (and existing) tables

Another great tool for revamping content is Rick’s TableCleaner utility. This one is also on my FrameMaker Top 10 list, at #9. Here’s Rick’s description of the tool:

TableCleaner provides powerful tools for working with FrameMaker tables, including those imported from Word. You can remove custom ruling and shading, convert body to header rows, resize tables by example, and apply paragraph formatting to existing tables. Tables can be modified individually or in batches across entire documents or books. Hundreds of tables can be updated in seconds with TableCleaner.

Whether you are importing Word files or just inheriting clunky tables from a previous author, this script makes quick work of retooling clunky Word tables. The next time you’re spending more than 15 minutes doing repetitive table management, grab a copy of this tool!

Additional resources

See for a list of courses and classes available

See for a list of my available FrameMaker reference and workbooks

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