Reusable EDDs

EDDs can be long, complicated documents in which the same strings or element structures happen to be repeated. For example, a single paragraph format tag may appear several times in an EDD or some of the format rules assigned to chapters and appendices may be the same. Furthermore, an organization may use several closely related, very similar EDDs. Any methods that allow fragments to be reused within an EDD, or to be shared across several EDDs, improve the development environment by reducing the need for manual, redundant editing. Such techniques shorten development time as well as testing and debugging cycles.

One such method is provided in the element catalog of EDDs themselves. Format change lists allow an EDD developer to define information once and use it repeatedly throughout an EDD. However, format change lists are limited in their possible structure. As the term implies, they contain lists of formatting properties, but cannot contain other structures (for example, complete formatting rules) that a developer may want to repeat.

Since an EDD is a structured document, any technique for reusing part of a structured document can be applied to an EDD. In particular, variables, conditional text, and text insets may allow a developer to share EDD fragments across a set of related EDDs as well as defining something once and using it many times within on EDD.


FrameMaker user variables can be defined for strings that are used repeatedly in an EDD (for example, the amount of extra indentation in a list). To indicate where variables are used, the developer may wish to define a character format for them. For instance, a character format called Variable might set all properties except color to As Is and set color to Red. A variable called ListIndent might be defined to be <Variable>24pt. Uses of ListIndent would then appear in red in the EDD and hence be distinguished from surrounding text.

Furthermore, alternate sets of variable definitions can be maintained in different FrameMaker documents and imported into an EDD as needed. For example, suppose an organization produces documents in two languages, say, English and French. EDDs for the two languages may differ only in the text included in prefixes for some elements. The prefix text can be defined in variables. In addition to the EDD, the developer can maintain two other FrameMaker documents. No text is needed in either, but both should define all the variables used in the prefixes. One file should define the English versions of the prefixes and the other the French versions. To update the English template, then, the developer first imports variable definitions from one of these files into the EDD and then imports element definitions from the EDD into the English template. Analogous steps are made for French. The advantage of this approach is that any EDD changes that do not involve prefixes need be made in only one EDD and not duplicated in separate English and French versions.

Conditional Text

Conditional text can also be used to maintain variations of a base EDD within a single file so that any common fragments can be edited once for all variations.

Text Insets

Although variables cannot contain elements and are limited in length to 255 characters, text insets allow long and structured segments of an EDD to be defined once and used multiple times. FrameMaker 7.0 supports three types of structured text insets:

Markup Language Text Insets

Of course, the use of SGML or XML text insets requires a structured application for representing the EDD in the markup language. Since an EDD is a structured document such an application can be built. Text structure Consulting, Inc., offers such an application for its metatemplate.

If nested text insets are used, the DTD for a structured application for EDDs must change with each EDD processed. A nested text inset is included in a markup language text inset via an entity reference. The application's DTD must declare the entity. The DTD can be organized in several files, with all entity declarations for text insets in one file. Thus, to use the application for a new EDD, therefore, is a simple matter of editing the file with the entity declarations for text insets.

Importing Adjacent Siblings

Without FDK support, there is another problem with FrameMaker and XML text insets (but not SGML text insets). It is often useful for a text inset to consist of a sequence of adjacent siblings but not their common parent. For example, suppose that two common attributes are defined for numerous element types, but that some of the element types have additional attributes as well. A text inset that contained the definition of the common attributes could appear within the attribute definition list for all relevant attribute types. Since the AttributeList element does not appear in the imported file, other attributes can be defined as well.

It should be possible to import FrameMaker flows containing multiple siblings. While the imported flow must have a single highest-level element, FrameMaker unwraps a root element named SGMLFragment. Unfortunately, FrameMaker (through version 7.0) sometimes crashes or produces incorrect results when unwrapping a highest-level SGMLFragment with more than one child.

A similar problem occurs with XML text insets. FrameMaker 7.0 cannot add an XML text inset to an existing document unless the text inset consists of a single subtree. (When importing an entire document from XML, it can create XML text insets consisting of multiple adjacent siblings).

The Reusable EDD Manager

In conjunction with Tassos Anastasiou, Text Structure Consulting, Inc., offers a tool that supports reusable EDDs. The Reusable EDD Manager is an FDK client that reads a configuration file to prepare variations of an EDD by making the relevant show/hide settings for conditional text and importing variable definitions from specified files. It imports element definitions from each resulting EDD into specified templates. For more information, see the Reusable EDD Manager.