Transition from Adobe FrameMaker, Acrobat to LibreOffice


Processor 13th Gen Intel(R) Core™ i7-13850HX 2.10 GHz
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Edition Windows 11 Pro
Version 23H2
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Experience Windows Feature Experience Pack 1000.22700.1003.0

Help, please.

¿What is the best (that is, the least laborious but most accurate) way to get Adobe FrameMaker files into LibreOffice: the way that preserves the greatest quantity of the details of formats of character tags and paragraph tags?

I have just installed LibreOffice and am a rank amateur with it. For about 25 years, I used Adobe FrameMaker and Acrobat and became quite proficient with them. Now, it seems that it is time to move away from both of those programs. I have dozens, perhaps hundreds (but I don’t think thousands), of FrameMaker individual (.fm) files. I have very few FrameMaker book (.book) files, but one in particular is of great importance to me.

I do not see that LibreOffice can open .fm and .book files. I imagine that I will have to open each FrameMaker file with the FrameMaker program and save the file into a format that LibreOffice can open.

I also need to be able to produce and edit PDF files.

Thanks for your time and interest: I hope to smoothly make this transition.

There is always hope, but expect problems. I"d say frame-maker is page-oriented DTP, while Writer (as also MS-Word) uses a flow-centerered aporoach where pages “happen” on the way to print pages.

Try, if you can convert/export to/save as some smaller parts for Open/LibreOffice or MS-Word to test

To produce PDF is possible, but not PDF/X.
You may edit PDF in Draw,vbut as this is editing as graphical objects, I’d save this for small changes like a typo or typical wrong dates.

The first step is to understand the differences between FM and LO Writer. Start by reading the Writer Guide. It is not written to explain the founding principles but will give you some ideas.

Next practice on short 1- or 2-page throw-away documents to get accustomed to UI and effects of commands.

Schematically, Writer is built around the notion of style. A style is a collection of paramaters you can apply as a whole on an “object”. Such an object can be:

  • a paragraph
    You control its “geometry” (spacing above and below, left and right indents, first line indent, background, foreground highlighting, alignment, tab stops, text flow, borders and a default character style.
  • a word (more generally a run of consecutive characters, thus the name of character style)
    You define the font properties (face, size, variant), visual effects (colour, decoration, casing), position (for sub- and superscript, character spacing and kerning), highlighting and borders.
  • a frame (a rectangular area external to the main flow which may contain secondary text, image, drawing, …)
    You control anchor (how it is related to main text flow), size, wrap mode (how main text flows around it), background, number of columns (relevant for text frames) and borders. Anchor is an important parameter because it tells how the frame moves when you edit your document (how it follows its reference point when the latter moves due to text reflow).
  • a page
    You control its “geometry” (size, orientation, margins), background, activation of header/footer and their size, number of columns, footnote area geometry and borders.
  • a list item number of bullet (this category is rather difficult to explain because it does not apply to a “primary” object but to a “decoration” of a paragraph)
    All lists in Writer are multi-level. With a list style, you specify for each level the kind of number or bullet and its indentation.

When the same attribute is specified in more than one category (this happens in principle only between character and paragraph styles because the latter contains a default char style), the precedence rule states that you consider, in order, paragraph style, which is overridden by character style, itself overridden by manual formatting.

For ease of formatting maintenance and peace of mind (to avoid “surprising” but predictable results destabilising newbies), avoid direct formatting. Due to the precedence rule, it always has priority over styles (and this is good to handle elegantly exceptions to your general formatting, but avoid it as much as possible) and this nullifies the benefits of styles.

My experience with FrameMaker is too rudimentary and too old for me to remember the workflow. I think the principles are radically different. My advice would be to paste your FM contents as unformatted text into a blank new document and apply styles over it. This is tedious; consequently, do it only if you must edit and review your existing documents.

If you have collections of similar looking documents, creating templates can be worth it. A Writer template file (extension .ott) contains your preferred collection of styles and optionally initial contents for new documents. When you create a new document from a template, the new document inherits initial contents, of course, and all styles which spares you the task of configuring them again. Also, if you later modify your styles in the template, these changes will be automatically forwarded to the derived document when you open it.



All -

Thank you so much for your replies.

ajlittoz -

I failed to point out that I have mostly used _unstructured_ FrameMaker, and that I have also used _structured_ FrameMaker (with XML).

Thank you especially for your detailed response. To me, your response reads as if Writer is very similar to FrameMaker. As I understand it, you recommend that MS Word is the preferred format to get content into Writer.

I have numerous FrameMaker templates on which all my individual (.fm) and book (.book) constituent files are based. I am very concerned that when I save my FrameMaker files into some other format (especially MS Word), I will lose all of the carefully-constructed and faithfully-applied character and paragraph formats and will have to manually reconstruct thousands of pages of information.

I get the impression that LibreOffice is, ultimately, based on XML or some other mark-up language. Is that so?

Please advise.


The file-format LibreOffice uses is actually a zip-File, wich contains xml-files. (This is also true for MS-Word.) But as this only describes some basics of the used grammar, this will help you not at all. XML is no Markup-Language for DTP. It is a language to describe markup languages…

No, @ajlittoz wrote about using unformatted text, so he suggested tobdeliberately loose all formatting and re-create it. And this may be the best for a clean approach, wich avoids later problems.
If you try to avoid this, you may try to use MS-Word, as often there is more work done in the field of exchange with MS.
But internally this double translation may create a real mess, even if it looks nice at first sight.

You are right here, especially for Word. MS is not using styles very much…

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LibreOffice Writer is a word processor with some DTP features. It does not include colour management nor crop and bleed. Those might be a deal breaker, but for some documents they aren’t really needed and the export to pdf is very good.

I don’t know how you can keep Framemaker styles unless there is an export format that can include them. You might be restricted to export as pdf which cannot hold any styles, just formatted text. If Framemaker can’t export as pdf then this might be an option to convert files to pdf, albeit a paid option,

Scribus is open source DTP that can handle colour management, CMYK, crop and bleed. You could look at this page, Working with Scribus: How to begin - Scribus Wiki
It can import pdf as vectors since 1.5 but it looks as though it works in a similar way to LibreOffice Draw, see Importing PDF files as Vector Graphics - Scribus Wiki

I still keep an old copy of Acrobat Pro for editing pdfs as it causes less damage to pdfs than other programs.


Please help dispel my ignorance.

Does Writer facilitate the use of cross references within documents - and especially between documents within master documents?


The cross reference documentation refers to specific text passages and objects in a single document.

For separate documents, see Hyperlinks.

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Cross-references in a master+subdocuments are possible but very tricky. And not all combinations are available. It is a matter of visibility of the definition location. The master document can see everything. A sub-document “naturally” sees only itself. Accessing other subs from there is the difficult point.