FYI: how to convert FrameMaker files to Scrivenings

Recently I converted 10 volumes I had written in FrameMaker 6 (Classic/OS 9 Mac) to Scrivener. As the process was a bit involved, I’m going to document it here in case anybody else wants to know.

Converting FrameMaker docs to Scrivener required opening the files on an old machine that runs FrameMaker, and exporting them as RTFs. Here’s how I did it:

1. Create FrameMaker test document

First I created a test document in FrameMaker with samples of all the character and paragraph styles I was going to use. I used that document to figure out the export process and work the bugs out.

My FrameMaker test document used a single Master Page, with equal margins. (The docs I was exporting had Left and Right pages, but that caused formatting problems in the RTFs on the OS X side.)

I also added paragraph numbering to certain paragraph styles in order to facilitate Scrivener’s import process – I’ll discuss this at the bottom.

2. Create Nisus Writer Pro template document
I used the exported file to create a template document in Nisus Writer Pro, with all the named character and paragraph styles I was going to use. That let me standardize all the formatting before I imported anything into Scrivener. Since Scrivener doesn’t (yet) have character and paragraph styles (apparently that’s in the works for Scrivener 3), any formatting I didn’t fix prior to Scrivener would have to get fixed one-by-one in Scrivener – no thanks!

3. Prepare FrameMaker files for export
I changed my FrameMaker docs from left and right pages (which I found during tests caused problems in the RTF import process) to a single master page.

(If you are exporting multiple documents and they are not already in a FM book, create a Book file and add them – it makes it much faster to batch-change settings and batch-import formatting updates.)

Next I imported styles and master pages from my FrameMaker template document. Now I was ready to export.

4. Export to RTF
I exported my files as Japanese RTFs. (Why Japanese? Because FrameMaker crashed when I tried exporting my large files in other RTF formats. I knew to try that because on another occasion, I had experienced formatting problems when exporting RTFs from FrameMaker, and Japanese RTF rendered those documents correctly. Go figure.)

5. Fix RTF formatting
Nisus Writer Pro couldn’t open the RTFs FrameMaker produced, so I opened them in MS Word, then resaved them as Word RTFs.

Next, I opened the new RTFs in Nisus Writer Pro to fix the formatting, which the export process mangled in places. The style names were all correct, but sometimes the formatting got overridden. To fix that, I used NWP’s nifty feature to select all instances of each paragraph or character format, then pasted the correct format.

I also did search-and-replace on the few characters that got translated into Japanese. (They were all punctuation such as em dashes, copyright marks, degree signs, and so on. The easiest way to catch them is to just make a list of punctuation in your test export FrameMaker file {"degree sign: °}, then see what they turn into when you open the file in Nisus Writer Pro.)

6. Import to Scrivener
I set Scrivener to snip files into separate Scrivenings whenever it encountered the string )|( and name them after the first line of text. I then imported my files.

The paragraph numbering I added in FrameMaker included the snip string )|( so I ended up with a long list of Scrivenings, most of which were my content, and some of which labeled that content so I could tell what I was looking at in the Binder:

…and so on.

I then searched for CHAPTER NAME, gave all those files a distinctively colored label so I could spot them in the Binder, changed the item following each occurrence into a folder, labeled it with my Chapter color, dragged the items following it inside it, and repeated with the other chapters. And then with the various flavors of subheads. And deleted the marker files.

Voilà, ten volumes, over a hundred chapters, hundreds of subheads, thousands of entries, all arranged in Scrivener with minimal bother and fuss. (Yeah, it still took quite awhile.)

Setting up paragraph styes for snipping
Here’s how I used FrameMaker’s paragraph numbering feature to create those nifty marker files in Scrivener. Recall that I used the string )|( to tell Scrivener “snip here”, since that string didn’t appear anywhere in my document text.

I therefore added numbering to my FrameMaker paragraph styles so that, for instance, my ChapterTitle style was numbered

If I had a subhead in FrameMaker named Veeblefetzers Through the Ages, it now looked like this in FrameMaker:

…which meant that on import, Scrivener snipped it to create these two documents in the binder:

Looking at THAT in the Binder, I would know that “Veeblefetzers Through the Ages” was a chapter title.

More than you ever wanted to know, but I figure someone can use this someday… and I wanted to write it down for myself before I forgot. :wink:


Great posts thanks Joy. As a technical writer I’ve wrangled with frame make quite a bit and am glad it’s dead!

I was thinking that this alternative might also work and would be worth while if you are converting a lot of files.

  1. Export the frame maker document to XML
  2. Write a transformation (XSLT) to convert the output to OPML
  3. Import the OPML to Scrivener

This way you don’t have to worry about styles until you get the document into scrivener