Rich media support now extends to Universal 3D (U3D) format graphics, which can be live in electronic documents, as can SWF Flash animations. Document import also includes Word 2007 and Excel 2007 support.
Perhaps the biggest single improvement is DITA compatibility. The Darwin Information Typing Architecture is an XML-based architecture, designed to help you break down technical documentation into separate, reusable modules. It uses types such as Task, Concept and Reference to help structure documents that may need to be reproduced in different forms.
A word of caution here, as none of the DITA menus will appear in FrameMaker 8, unless you select the Structured Interface. This is a little box that pops up the first time you run the program and actually switches on all the DITA services, as well as making changes to the interface.
If you make the wrong selection, you can still change modes at any point from the File, Preferences, General menu, but there's no reference to this in the documentation, most of which assumes you have the structured interface running. You wonder why the program doesn't default to this mode? It's easy enough to ignore features you don't need to use, but frustrating if you can't find those you do need.
Further down the list of improvements is better handling of conditional tags, where you can set specific pieces of text, frames or other page elements to show only when certain conditions are met. This is ideal, for example, if you have a document containing text for different audiences. You can display whichever copy you want, simply by setting the appropriate conditional tag in the text.
XML round-tripping is also improved, so a native FrameMaker 8 document can be exported and re-imported for further editing, while maintaining elements like comments and conditional text, throughout the whole process.
The cheapest we could find FrameMaker 8 for is £806 for the full version or £270 for the upgrade (from previous versions of FrameMaker, only). In the US, Adobe prices the full version at around $899, so not much over half the UK price. Adobe wouldn't comment on the price difference, but the only reason we can think of for the much higher UK price is because customers are still prepared to buy it for that.
FrameMaker 8 is an excellent document creation tool with some very worthwhile improvements in the latest version, but the retail pricing is outrageous. (Corporate pricing may be better - please let us know). The price must, surely, discourage its wider adoption, which is a great shame.