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Publications > Dateline Houston > February 2004 > Feature Article

Volume 43, Issue 5

February 2004

What's in a <FrameMaker tag> Name?

by Shlomo Perets, Founder, MicroType

There are many considerations behind the names you choose for various FrameMaker items, especially paragraph, character, and conditional tags and variables:

  • Tag and color names should imply function rather than appearance—Emphasis instead of Bold, Quote instead of Indented, Links instead of BlueUnderline, Heading instead of the specific color. Variable names should be generic yet meaningful.
  • As much as possible, use standard sets of names across templates—this will facilitate workgroup collaboration as well as help repurpose content and make it easier to update (with the Import Formats function). Keep in mind that FrameMaker is case-sensitive.
  • Names should be recognized easily: use Step instead of st.
  • Names of paragraph and condition tags should be short enough to display meaningfully in the Cross-Reference and Conditional Text dialog boxes.
  • For efficient application of tags and insertion of variables using the keyboard ("quick keys"), names must have a unique beginning. The unique beginning can be in the name itself (for example, 2head as opposed to heading2) or in the form of a special quick key prefix added to the tag (such as h2 Heading2).
  • Take advantage of the sorting order to control the position of items in a list: seldom used items or generated items can be pushed to the end of list by having a prefix such as zz or ~ (tilde); frequently used items can be pushed to the top of list by starting with characters such as -, @, or =. This will make the lists and palettes tidier and easier to work with—especially when you have lots of tags. (This also makes it easier to identify and select paragraphs in the Cross-Reference dialog box.)
  • Use a similar beginning for groups of related items—such as all headings and all table items—so that they stay together in the catalog.
  • Don't use backslash, comma, parentheses, and square or angle brackets in tag names; doing so might create conflicts when the tags are used in variable definitions.
  • Depending on your template needs, a paragraph or condition tag name can be retrieved by cross-references or header/footer variables and placed in the visible page content.
  • Character tags to be typed manually in index markers should have minimal names, such as em for emphasis, in addition to Emphasis (so that <em> is typed instead of <Emphasis>). Notice that starting with FrameMaker 5.5.6, </> is understood as "default paragraph font" so you don't need to define a format to revert to regular text (</> is also useful in variables and cross-reference formats, as it keeps more visible content in dialog boxes).
  • To prevent colors and character formats that serve special document-related purposes from being overwritten inadvertently when importing formats from other documents, use a unique prefix for them.

Shlomo Perets formed MicroType in 1989 and provides training and consulting in FrameMaker and Acrobat, FrameMaker-to-Acrobat integrated solutions, and online documentation services. Shlomo will present his advanced FrameMaker seminars in Houston in February. For details, see

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